Suit: `Fear Factor’ rips off Web series

Nov 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Zoo Productions, a Los Angeles-based production company, has filed a lawsuit against NBC and “Fear Factor” producer Endemol Entertainment claiming the hit reality series is a rip-off of a concept from an Internet-based series called “Dare for Dollars.”
In the copyright infringement suit filed Oct. 29 in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, officials for Zoo Productions claim they held several series pitch meetings and screenings of previously produced episodes of “Dare for Dollars” with NBC Entertainment, NBC Studios and Endemol executives. From those meetings, Zoo alleges that NBC stole aspects of “Dare for Dollars” to include in “Fear Factor.”
Zoo created and produced 20 episodes of “Dare for Dollars” as an Internet-based series for now-defunct Z.com. The series was launched on the Web in April 2000.
After Z.com went belly up, Zoo reacquired the remaining distribution rights to “Dare for Dollars” and started pitching it to broadcast and cable TV networks. Zoo is best known in the Hollywood production community for cable network reality fare, including MTV’s “Blame Game,” USA Network’s “Crush” and MTV’s “Snowed-In” special, in addition to MTV’s upcoming series “The Mandy Show.”
Citing specific examples of stunts co-opted from previous episodes of “Dare for Dollars,” the suit’s most cogent example was a segment in which a contestant was placed in a bathtub with worms and bugs, which was also a segment in the June 11 premiere episode of “Fear Factor.” Zoo attorney Howard Rosoff made a point of noting that “Fear Factor” used and credited the same supplier of the worms-whose identity was purportedly mentioned earlier by “Dare for Dollars” host Matt Corboy.
The filing goes so far as to claim that NBC contacted Mr. Corboy without Zoo’s knowledge or consent to allegedly question him about various stunts and production aspects of the Internet-based show.
Representatives for NBC and Endemol both declined comment, citing “pending litigation” in the case.