Entertainment Litigation Update

Leaking the Secrets of Survivor: “Outwit, outplay and outlast” is the tagline to the popular CBS reality series, Survivor. That phrase could apply equally to both the rabid online forum in which the show’s fans attempt to “spoil” the plot twists and secrets of the show and to the show’s producer, who has attempted to thwart the spoilers. In 2010, DJB Inc., a company owned by Survivor executive producer Mark Burnett, filed a federal suit against James Early for violating trade secret laws by disseminating online spoilers for Survivor’s 19th and 20th seasons.

California law defines a “trade secret” as information which “derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to the public or to other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use.” Cal. Civ. Code § 3426.1(d). Typically, trade secret law has been used to protect company secrets that would be valuable to a competitor. Here, DJB has used trade secret law in a novel manner: it alleges that the production releases information to the public on a periodic basis, but that to protect the value of the business, information concerning what will be released must be kept secret until its scheduled release date.

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