Tomorrow lawyers for Seven will ask a Federal Court to suspend Nine’s Hot Plate citing a breach of copyright, after viewers took to social media calling it a ‘rip-off’ of My Kitchen Rules.
Nine’s format is produced by production company Endemol (now Endemol Shine Australia).
Both shows have two judges, state-based teams and dinners being critiqued, with plenty of robust opinions being traded across the table. But while there are plenty of cooking shows on television, where do you draw the line as to a breach of copyright?
Media and entertainment lawyer Shaun Miller told TV Tonight, while you can’t copyright an idea, there is protection in the execution.
“The court will be looking at the format rights of My Kitchen Rules and looking to see if there has been substantial copying of those format rights in The Hot Plate,” he says.
“So you would look at how contestants are voted on or off, the things they have to do such as cooking or judging each other’s food, where the judges sit, music elements, if there is similar lingo being used, the tone of the show.
“It’s a bit of a smell-test. If a format is copied to such an extent from an original show and you have people saying ‘It looks like a rip-off,’ then if it looks like a rip-off and smells like a rip-off then it probably is a rip-off.”
While Seven’s show features amateur cooks, Nine has experienced restaurateurs competing, but Miller says that may not be enough point of difference.
The copyright protection is also found in the literary work of the show’s bible, or manual.
“The bible is the DNA how the show operates and functions. Everything from contestants, judges, theme and all the essential elements,” he says.
“The bible for My Kitchen Rules is protected by copyright law. So if The Hot Plate makes a substantial reproduction of that bible there would be a breach of copyright.”
There is also the question of ‘Passing Off’ -a representation that a person’s goods or services are those of someone else and intended to injure a plaintiff.
“If you pass something off as being new and original when it’s not then that’s a breach of Passing Off.”
Nine says it will vigorously defend its new show and argue that subsequent episodes will deviate with further makeover elements of its restaurants. Miller argues it will need to be a significant part of the storytelling to make a good case.
“If the tangent of the show starts diverging with new elements involving the contestants, judging or setting, the look and the tone then there would be a better argument by Nine that the series as a whole is not breaching the format rights of My Kitchen Rules,” he says.
“It’s got to be meaningful and substantial. It can’t just be somewhere different where the judges sit.”