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FRAPA hits back in formats spat

August 15, 2008

On June 24, Howard Davine, executive vice-president of ABC Studios, allegedly wrote a memo to executive producers urging them to "carefully scrutinise" whether licensing foreign formats "is necessary or appropriate".

The leaked memo, which first appeared on the Los Angeles blog site Deadline Hollywood Daily and has, in recent weeks, been picked up by several international publications, effectively gives permission to ABC's producers to copy "the underlying premise" of a show without licensing the format. If true, this runs contrary to FRAPA's core mission, which is to ensure that television formats are respected by the industry and protected by law as intellectual property.

The FRAPA board, responding to Davine's memo said the Association and the international TV production industry had waited in vain for ABC and/or Disney to respond to Howard Davine’s memo which, if authentic, was "unacceptable both creatively and commercially."

"FRAPA believes in, and fights for, the intellectual property of formats. FRAPA believes that formats belong to the people who create them and that they should not be used unlawfully by any third-party, even one as powerful as ABC."

In FRAPA's view, the Davine memo can be seen to be encouraging ABC producers and show-runners not to license formats honestly. "If this is found to be the case, FRAPA will do everything in its power to help protect the property of its members in the international creative community," it warned.

Commenting on the leaked memo, Fox Reality president David Lyle, FRAPA steering committee member and one of the association's founding fathers, said that if ABC and Disney refused to repudiate the contents of the Davine memo, then producers – both the US and around the world – might note their silence and help themselves to the ';underlying premise' of Hannah Montana.

Lyle added: "Producers might even be persuaded by Mr Davine’s memo to be inspired by the ';general underlying premise' of a well-known Disney cartoon character. In the spirit of the memo, the rip-off rodent might be called Tricky Mouse."

Established in 2000 by a group of key industry professionals, FRAPA now represents over 100 companies from within the television and broadcast industry. Its members include format creators, producers, distributors and broadcasters.

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