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Fremantle, TRK settle Masked Singer row

TRK Ukraine claimed Maskarad ressembled The Masked Singer

Ukrainian broadcasters TRK Ukraine and 1+1 Media and European producer and distributor Fremantle have settled their copycat row over the local version of South Korean format The Masked Singer.

The three companies released a statement today saying they had reached a settlement over the dispute which surrounds TRK Ukraine’s local adaptation of The Masked Singer and 1+1’s local reworking of Romanian format Mysteries in the Spotlight.

The statement said: “Terms have been agreed to ensure that the two formats are clearly differentiated, with any future series of both shows now adhering to strict format rules.”

As part of the agreement, TRK Ukraine will broadcast its show, Mask, next winter in accordance with its agreement with Masked Singer distributor Fremantle.

1+1 Media, meanwhile, has the right to broadcast the second season of the show Maskarad in autumn 2021 in accordance with the format Mysteries in the Spotlight, which is owned by Romania’s Antena TV Group.

TRK Ukraine and Fremantle had threatened legal action against 1+1 at the end of 2020, alleging that Maskarad had incorporated key elements of the global hit format The Masked Singer, owned by Korean producer MBC and licensed to TRK Ukraine by Fremantle.

1+1 had, in turn, denied that Maskarad infringed any intellectual property rights in The Masked Singer, arguing that its show was a legitimate adaptation of Mysteries in the Spotlight.

The parties said today their settlement provides a number of guarantees and undertakings by each party aimed at amicably resolving the issues between them and enabling both programmes to be produced in a manner where both are clearly distinctive.

In particular, the agreement clearly establishes the key format elements of each show which must be maintained and may not be incorporated in the other programme.

1+1 has agreed that any future seasons of Maskarad observe format rules to more clearly differentiate it from The Masked Singer. These include showcasing a greater variety of talent (dance, comedy, circus, drama and dance) and no more than 50% of the masked performers in each episode can have singing as their act.

Other agreed changes include increasing the number of celebrities that must unmask in each episode (at least two) and changing the way that the panels are given clues about the identity of the masked contestant, so that there is less reliance on the celebrity giving clues in a digitally altered voice.

For its part, TRK Ukraine has agreed to ensure that its adaptations of The Masked Singer do not incorporate key elements of Mysteries in the Spotlight, such as two competing panels or episodes featuring a mix of different talents.

Tony Stern, exec VP of commercial and business affairs at Fremantle, said: “We are very pleased this dispute has been able to be resolved amicably. It is hugely important that where formats contain similar features, the format owners, broadcasters and producers work to ensure that the differences between them are maintained so that each remains clearly distinctive. We are glad that this has been recognised by all parties here.”

TRK Ukraine director Viktoria Korogod said: “We welcome this settlement agreement as a way of efficiently resolving legal disputes established in a civilised society. It is important to us that during the debate the parties managed to establish clear requirements for each format and guaranteed to maintain them. We strongly believe that our example will become an important step in creating a civilised market of audiovisual content and copyright and TV format protection in Ukraine.”

Yaroslav Pakholchuk, general director of 1+1 Media, said “Resolution of the conflict in the manner where the parties meet at the negotiating table, hear and consider each other’s arguments and agree upon the rules for subsequent work is the unprecedented practice in the Ukrainian TV industry.

“I am sure that this case will facilitate development and improvement of the entire media market and will be a role model demonstrating that an understanding can be reached in any situation through negotiation on a win-win basis, when there are common values and principles.”

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