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Brandon M.
Brandon M., Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
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Experience:  Licensed Attorney
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I have a commercial that I want to produce to be shown on

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I have a commercial that I want to produce to be shown on Cablevision in a small market on Long Island, New York that's a parody of The Dating Game, but instead of basing who the woman contestant picks for a date on the merits of the contestants' answers, the theory is that she'll pick based on their teeth. I want to call it The Dental Dating Show. Do you think this is copyright infringement?

Good day, my name is Brandon. First, that's a killer idea for a show. I would definitely watch...

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
That's great. Thank you.
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
what do you think?

Second, it was smart for you to ask the question. There might be some red flags, depending on what your final product looks like. The question for a court would be whether there is a "substantial similarity" between the copyrighted work and your replication..

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Do you think "The Dental Dating Show" is far enough away from "The Dating Game"? Also, I don't think our sign would look the same, it might use bubbly letters like the dating game, but not in the same design. What do you think?

There's no bright-lined rule to determine whether there is "substantial similarity" between two works. A court would look at the totality of the circumstances -- the look of the products, the feel, the name would certainly be a factor of consideration. The title "The Dental Dating Show" is not likely, in my opinion, to be "substantially similar" to "The Dating Game", but it has to be taken in the context of the entire project. You're saying that the sign wouldn't look the same, so that would also help your argument (if an argument needed to be made)...

If I may ask directly, was this show idea merely inspired by the Dating Game, or are you intending to replicate any portion of the Dating Game?

The question for a court is whether there is substantial similarity in the idea. I can tell you right now that I am leaning toward you being in the clear, but that said, you can definitely make anything a copyright infringement if the envelope is pushed. I'm asking these questions about details not just to gather information, but also because they are things that need to be considered during the development process.

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
The idea is certainly inspired by it, but by game shows in general. So, there's a female contestant and a host on left side and 3 male contestants on the other. She doesn't ask them any questions. The commercial opens immediately with the host asking the girl "Well, who's it going to be...contestant 1?" The host says his name and we see him. The host will say the man's won 4 nobel prizes (implying he's a great catch). He smiles and she says no because his smile is gross. Then that happens again with the second contestant, only he has won 12 Emmy's. She says no again because of his gross smile. Then the third contestant is Steve. Steve has a boring job and looks just kind of less than optimal a date choice. But he smiles and she says yes excitedly.

Based on what you've said, it sounds like your concept really couldn't be confused or implicitly affiliated with the original Dating Game; I'm not seeing the "substantial similarity" based on my understanding of your description. Have an attorney examine the final product, and I encourage you to keep in mind how similar the product looks during development, but I'm not worried for you at this stage of development.

This is especially true if the final product looks and feels like a parody. Copyright laws are generally intended to keep other people from profiting from replicating our original works, but that generally doesn't preclude people from profiting when they make fun of our works.

Does all of that make sense, and have I been able to answer in a way that was clear and helpful?

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
If we called it The Dental Dating Game, would that be too close to the original?

I'm not concerned about that title as an independent piece of the puzzle. If the final product, in totality, crosses the line, then it could certainly be part of a copyright infringement argument.

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Well it's not only the title, it will be hanging on a sign in the background the entire time.

By itself, that doesn't worry me too much either. But it's like filling a pitcher of water -- the drips add up, and some drips are bigger than others. Does that make sense?

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
it does. Thank you so much for your time, Brandon.

Going back to the original question, the title and the concept together aren't particularly troubling, but that's not to say that you couldn't find a way to make it a copyright infringement if you tried :-)

It was my pleasure to help. Thanks, ***** ***** remember to leave a rating once you are completely finished. I hope to see the show when it finally gets aired!

Brandon M. and other Intellectual Property Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Ha. Let's hope not. I can't imagine having to pay back the client, let alone get sued.

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