(UPDATED with Reelz statement) More than two years after pulling the plug on Live PD, A&E now wants to lock up and throw away the key on the revival series On Patrol: Live.
“Without any authorization from AETN, Big Fish [the show’s former producer] created a clone of Live PD featuring the same primary hosts, content, format, segments, and more, and sold that virtually identical show to Reelz, a cable network seeking its first breakout hit, which then aired the show over AETN’s repeated and vociferous objections,” says a blistering copyright-infringement complaint (read it here) filed Tuesday in federal court by A&E Television Networks against producers MGM-owned Big Fish, Half Moon Pictures and Reelz itself.
Appealing to forthcoming judges and juries, A&E is seeking a variety of damages and profits out of this action. Perhaps even more penalizing, the plaintiff also desires to see On Patrol: Live and any other Live PD derivative shut down with a permanent injunction from the court.
Debuting in 2016, the Dan Abrams-hosted Live PD was one of the highest-rated series on cable when it was canceled in June 2020 in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing that year and a widespread response to police violence and brutality. The straw that broke the channel’s back was the horrible revelation that same year that video allegedly captured by the Live PD crew of the 2019 death of Javier Ambler during a police stop had been destroyed.
Looking for a new home, work-for-hire producers Big Fish and gang went to Reelz. Despite a few technical burps on its premiere night, On Patrol: Live gave the outlet its biggest hit ever.
Now it seems that the Hearst Communications and Disney co-owned A&E, who apparently hold all the rights to the original show, believe someones on the wrong side of the law when it comes to cop follow along shows.
“Defendants intentionally have confused the public into believing that On Patrol: Live is Live PD and is associated with AETN’s brand,” today’s graphic-heavy and jury trial-seeking document from NYC firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP says. “Defendants and Live PD’s former principals openly and repeatedly have referred to Live PD as ‘returning’ and ‘coming back’ on Reelz,” adds the complaint, using high voltage terms such as “brazen theft” and “flagrant violation” to make the plaintiff’s point.”These public statements were not gaffes or misstatements; they were part and parcel of Defendants’ bad-faith strategy of capitalizing on AETN’s reputation, trading on AETN’s goodwill, and passing off On Patrol: Live as the same product as Live PD. The intended substantial actual confusion among the public has resulted and is documented.”
Perhaps adding to a lesser confusion is the fact that A&E itself is currently in business with Big Fish on Court Night Live. Having debuted August 10 on the outlet, the show fronted by Vinnie Politan, Judge Greg Mathis and Judge Vonda Evans “appears to be the network’s spiritual successor to live cops series,” to quote my Deadline colleague Peter White.
Responding to Deadline’s request for comment, a Reelz spokesperson Tuesday said: “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.”
Until they do have a more comprehensive comment, watch your six.
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