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Several of the leading television formats have now grossed well over $1million each. A recent Screen Digest report established that the global format business was worth €2.4billion in 2004. This figure however represents only the income from the licensing of formats. It does not represent income from the broadcast of unlicensed copycat versions of original television formats.

Unfortunately television formats enjoy varying degrees of legal protection worldwide. There is no statutory protection for television formats in any country that we know of. Such case law as there is (based on the national copyright legislation) indicates that a format will enjoy legal protection if it is both sufficiently original and has been developed into a detailed documentary form which a court will then treat as a copyright work.

Although there is no international uniformity on the law of formats, there are general principles of copyright law which are common to most developed jurisdictions. There are however a number of practical steps that can be taken to make the protection of television formats easier for those that have invested substantial time and money in their creation.

If you would like to receive a practical guide to help you protect your format, whatever the jurisdiction, then contact Jonathan Coad at jc@ifla.tv, who would be happy to send you a copy.