The A&E network is suing for copyright and trademark infringement after the Reelz channel began airing what perhaps amounts to “Live PD” 2.0.
As part of a 48-page lawsuit, A&E accuses the defendants of “a brazen theft of intellectual property” and a “blatant rip-off,” given that the rebranded show, “On Patrol: Live,” is allegedly an unauthorized “clone” of “Live PD.”
A&E argues that it is “the sole and exclusive owner in any and all rights” to the original show.
“Live PD” was a ratings powerhouse on Friday and Saturday evenings for A&E, with an associated sizable social media following known as Live PD Nation, before it was canceled by panicky network executives in June 2020 in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, an incident which prompted nationwide protests and civil unrest.
The lawsuit admits that “Live PD” was the most popular content on A&E and cable television generally before the network “suspended production” of new episodes, a decision that hardly pleased the reality show’s devoted audience. A&E had reportedly just struck a deal for 160-more episodes when it axed the show.
More facts will likely emerge in the litigation, but it’s unclear if A&E itself ever had plans to reboot the hit show under its own banner.
Fans of the show felt that in presenting riveting as well as mundane or quirky aspects of law enforcement activity, “Live PD” was a net positive for police-community relations even as anti-police sentiment gained currency among social justice activists, Democrat politicians, and others, including within woke corporate America.
During the past two years, former host and pro-police liberal Dan Abrams (the ABC News legal analyst, NewsNation anchor, and media entrepreneur) had insisted that the popular ride-along show, with videographers accompanying officers from multiple departments responding to calls in real-time — subject to a short tape delay — would return in some form.
On July 22, “On Patrol: Live” premiered on the lesser-known Reelz platform in the same weekend time slots as its canceled predecessor.
Abrams also returned as host (with an executive producer credit), along with studio analyst Sean Larkin, the now-retired Tulsa, Okla., cop. The other member of the trio, Tom Morris, Jr., moved on to other projects in the interim. As a result, Deputy Sheriff Curtis Wilson from Richland County, S.C., has joined Abrams and Larkin on set to provide commentary.
Reelz, Big Fish Entertainment, and Big Fish affiliate Half Moon Pictures are named as defendants in the case that was filed in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday. “Big Fish Entertainment, the reality show’s producer, revived the series in June with a new name and new home at Reelz,” The Hollywood Reporter explained.
A&E claims that the new show is “virtually identical” to “Live PD” and “copies nearly every aspect of Live PD.”
The lawsuit goes on to insist that A&E “never relinquished or assigned its rights to create episodes of Live PD nor has it authorized anyone else to prepared derivative programs based upon Live PD except as works for hire.”
The legal complaint also suggests that the rival channel ignored cease-and-desist letters from A&E’s attorneys and moved forward with the program, although it allegedly changed the working title from the mirror image “PD Live” to its current name
In addition to a request for various forms of monetary damages, A&E is seeking a court order, i.e., an injunction, to essentially shut down production of the new version, which is very unlikely to be granted.
A&E also took exception to what it characterized as a misleading publicity campaign by the defendants that they were “bringing back” the “Live PD” show on Reelz.
For those who can’t get behind the paywall, the WSJ headline is “Live PD is coming back this summer as “On Patrol Live” @ReelzChannel. The show will be back on Friday and Saturday nights sometime later this summer! (And the name is a “working” title).
— Dan Abrams (@danabrams) June 8, 2022
On Tuesday, TMZ reported that Reelz had yet to receive the legal papers.
“A rep for Reelz tells TMZ, ‘ReelzChannel, LLC, has not been served with nor had an opportunity to review the Complaint in detail, and thus has no comment at this time beyond denying liability and expressing its ongoing commitment to On Patrol: Live.'”
Reelz, which perhaps many consumers never even heard of until a few weeks ago, has received a big boost from “On Patrol: Live,” per The Hollywood Reporter: “On Patrol: Live has propelled Reelz into a top 25 cable network position for the first time, according to the suit. It was the most-watched show on cable in July among 25 to 54 year olds, registering 3.5 million unique viewers.”
“On Patrol: Live” has reportedly received a multiyear commitment from Reelz.
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