Netflix and Goldin Auctions Triumph in Copyright Case

Netflix can breathe easy, as can Goldin Auctions and the minds behind “King of Collectibles.” A copyright lawsuit initiated against them has been thrown out by a federal judge. The disgruntled plaintiff, reality TV alumnus Gervase Peterson, saw a bit too much of his 2019 pitch, “The Goldin Boys,” in the Netflix-acquired show.

Peterson’s major gripe revolved around the eerie resemblance that he purportedly perceived between his original concept and the reality show, which just debuted its second season. Having briefly engaged with Peterson, all communication mysteriously dried up around the middle of 2020. Soon after this silence, a production eerily similar to Peterson’s concept reportedly went into the works. Talk about shades of grey!

In the defendants’ corner, their defense focused on the argument that the disputed reality show was merely a reflection of Goldin Auctions’ daily operations and its founder, Ken Goldin’s personal life. They held their ground stating that the reality show embodied generic themes that the Copyright Act does not protect.

Christine O’Hearn, the New Jersey federal district court’s judge, was all aboard with this perspective. Peterson’s claimed ‘protectable elements’ were no more than scènes à faire in the eyes of the law. For those unfamiliar with the phrase, scènes à faire refers to typical scenes or themes that are so common to a genre that they cannot enjoy copyright protection. Judge O’Hearn underscored this point, noting that ordinary day-to-day operations like those shown on “King of Collectibles” are classic reality TV fodder.

And there’s more — Judge O’Hearn pointed out that previous similar cases have established that real-life subjects and standard reality show elements simply don’t cut the copyright mustard. Her dismissal of Peterson’s case sticks a firm pin in the inflated notion that broad, common reality TV themes and concepts can be copyrighted.

In an ironic twist of fate, “King of Collectibles,” the upstart show that supposedly poached Peterson’s “golden goose,” comfortably jumped the legal fence and even landed a prestigious Emmy nomination. Clearly, not all that glitters is Goldin (pun much intended) — especially in the whirlwind world of reality TV, where one man’s pitch can easily become another’s popular series. With this case being judiciously dismissed, perhaps aspiring reality TV creators will think twice before crying wolf — or, in this case, copyright infringement.