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Client Work

Pelchat v. Astral Média et Zone3 inc. et al

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Pelchat, a very famous hair dresser, began presenting beauty makeover television shows for women in the 1970s, changing their hair, make-up and, afterwards, their clothing. About fifteen years later, Zone3, a well-known television production company in Québec, created and produced for Canal Vie (owned and operated by Astral Média Inc.) a television series called Métamorphose featuring people who underwent beauty makeovers. Métamorphose aired on Canal Vie from 2002 to 2008. Pelchat, claiming to have been injured, sued Zone3, Paul Dupont-Hébert (one of Zone3’s shareholders and one of the show’s executive producers), Isabelle Boutin (the series’ host and Dupont-Hébert’s spouse) as well as Astral, the series’ broadcaster on Canal Vie, and was asking the court to uphold his rights over television beauty makeovers and to award him over $3 million in damages. Pelchat argued that he held exclusive global rights to television beauty makeover shows and that Zone3, Paul Dupont-Hébert, Isabelle Boutin or Astral knew of his former television shows Look and Look International, copied his idea, formula or recipe for television beauty makeovers, and used them to create Métamorphose. He filed suit because he claimed that the five-year period in which these shows were broadcast on Canal Vie constituted plagiarism. He claimed, moreover, that the broadcasting of Métamorphose infringed his copyright to his shows Look 88-89 and Look international that had been broadcast 15 years earlier. Zone3 and other defendant parties contested the suit. According to them, no one can assert a copyright or exclusive title to an idea or concept, much less a “generic” idea or concept like a beauty makeover. They further claimed that, at any rate, Métamorphose is an independent work created by Zone3. Pelchat was claiming several millions of dollars in damages. The stakes were high for the television industry, which was trying to protect its ability to create new television shows on subjects that were contemplated by other shows in the past. The issue here was to properly define the difference between an idea (television beauty makeover) and its realization, since only the expression of the idea is protected under the Copyright Act. The plaintiff lost on all counts. In fact, the Superior Court of the district of Montreal ruled that the Copyright Act does not set out to protect ideas or concepts. It clearly states that no one may “divide” their work into so-called “essential parts” that could be found in another work to then claim that the second work “illegally” reproduces the first. If this were the case, a work could always be split into ever smaller elements, some or most of which might then be found in another work. As the judgment states, if this criterion did apply, we would only find one love story in our libraries!



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