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Published Mon, 12 October 2020, 8:08
Below is the text of the explanation without changes in English:
"You have asked for a letter from Fremantle providing the history of our discussions with 1+1 about The Masked Singer and Mysteries in the Spotlight, and our views on the programme ‘Maskarad’ that 1+1 have produced and started airing on 3rd October.
Fremantle acquired the Ukrainian format rights for The Masked Singer in October 2019 and Anne Kirsipuu, our Ukrainian sales representative, offered the rights to 1+1, TRK Ukraine and other Ukrainian broadcasters. TRK Ukraine showed the most interest and offered the highest price, Anne approached 1+1 and told them they had not made the highest bid and would they like to increase their offer, and when they declined Anne accepted TRK Ukraine’s offer. When 1+1 realised that we had agreed a deal with another broadcaster they expressed to us how unhappy they were that we had done this, but we told them we had made a commitment and wouldn’t break that deal.
We then received reports that 1+1 was approaching celebrities in Ukraine saying they were making an entertainment show featuring celebrities in masks singing. Concerned that they might be preparing a copy of the Masked Singer, we sent them a letter on 11th June warning them that there would be consequences if they did that. I attach a copy of that letter. They did not reply to that letter until 29th June, after we had contributed to your press release expressing concerns that 1+1 was preparing to copy The Masked Singer. Their letter contained a copy of the press release they had issued that day about Maskarad and said “It doesn’t use any key format elements from The Masked Singer and doesn’t violate rights of Fremantle.”
We have now viewed the first episode of Maskarad that you kindly sub-titled into English, and have also seen 1+1’s press statement today that “Maskarad is an adaptation of the Romanian format Mysteries In The Spotlight , which the 1 + 1 TV channel bought from its owner, Antena TV Group”. It is worth looking at Antena’s own description of the ‘Mysteries in the Spotlight’ format:
In the show celebrities, divided in two teams, compete to guess the celebrities who are hiding behind masks. The acts performed by the masks are extremely varied, from stand up comedy and circus to music, theater, dance, pantomime. The acts are included in scenes which reproduce through scenography, costumes, music, pictures and screenplay, various situations: a historical period (eg. Ancient Rome), a famous film (eg. Star Wars), a place in the world (eg. North Pole) or other moments / places / situations known by most people.
Each edition is structured on three scenes, and each scene contains two masks. The mask will be helped by secondary characters, dancers, actors or special guests. In some cases, a guest star will also be introduced - a personality who will play its own role, an episodic, yet surprising appearance within the scene.
We also understand that in each episode of the Romanian version of Mysteries in the Spotlight, all of the masked celebrities are unmasked, and the celebrity panel that guess the most correctly wins the episode and gets to donate the prize money to charity.
Comparing the ‘official’ format description of Mysteries in the Spotlight to what we have seen in the first episode of Maskarad:
- The masked celebrities are not performing a variety of acts, they are only singing – which is a key element of The Masked Singer;
- The masked celebrities are not all unmasked in the one episode, only one is and all of the other celebrities continue in the competition. So rather than having self-contained episodes, the show has a series arc – again a key element of The Masked Singer;
- The masked celebrities do not perform in well known scenarios, they just sing on the central stage with some dancers and props – another key element of The Masked Singer;
- There is no direct competition between 2 masked celebrities, each masked celebrity sings alone – again a key feature of The Masked Singer.
There are also other elements in Maskarad that are distinctive features of The Masked Singer. These include:
- The speaking voice of the masked celebrity being digitally disguised except when they are singing;
- The panel asking the masked celebrity questions – our understanding is that in Mysteries in the Spotlight the host provides clues through a quiz;
- VT packages giving clues as to the masked celebrity’s identity;
- The show finishing with one celebrity being unmasked;
- There are also various elements of the studio design and graphics that are similar to The Masked Singer, and of course using the name ‘Maskarad’ also suggests an adaptation of Masked Singer.
They have clearly added in other features to try to distance the show from The Masked Singer. The obvious one is the lip-synch competition between the two celebrity panels to win the right to choose which of the two masked celebrities in the ‘risk zone’ has to unmask. This is also not an element of Mysteries in the Spotlight.
Our conclusion is that 1+1 have deliberately appropriated key elements from The Masked Singer, and added them to the only feature one could really say that they retained from Mysteries in the Spotlight, which is the competition between two celebrity panels in guessing the identity of who is behind the mask. It would be a matter for Ukrainian lawyers to advise if this behaviour infringes Ukrainian intellectual property laws or gives rise to other causes of action under Ukrainian law. We are in the process of obtaining an evaluation from FRAPA of their view of the extent to which Maskarad copies key format elements of The Masked Singer, and once we have that to hand and the views of your Ukrainian lawyers we can discuss how best to frame the case
EVP Commercial and Business Affairs