In its April 24 2013 decision in Ammour v TF1 the Supreme Court considered whether the participants in the French version of famous reality television show Temptation Island held neighbouring rights in their performances.

The plaintiffs - one current participant and 52 other people from past seasons of the show - sought guidance on the legal nature and scope of the participant rules which they had signed before appearing on the show. The plaintiffs claimed that these rules had to be regarded as employment contracts, and that the participants held neighbouring rights in their respective performance.

According to Article L212-1 of the IP Code, a 'performer' is a person who "represents, sings, repeats, declaims, plays or performs in any other way a literary or artistic work".

The court of appeal rejected the plaintiffs' claims, holding that the participants had no particular rights in their performance, since they did not have to play any role.

The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that they held neighbouring rights in their performances for several reasons, including the following:

  • The fact that the participants had played their own characters did not preclude them from holding neighbouring rights in their performance;
  • The producer had established guidelines which required the participants to take part in different elements, such as a succession of required filmed activities, special prepared scenes and structured interviews;
  • A reality television show is like a television series, in that it is different from reality and includes artificial elements; and
  • The participants had taken part in structured improvisation.

The Supreme Court dismissed these claims. It ruled, in particular, that the participants in a reality television show cannot be considered as performers with valid neighbouring rights in their performance, as long as they do not play a role and do not have a script.

The participants were merely requested to be themselves and to express their reactions to situations. The artificial nature of these situations did not suffice to provide them with performance rights.

The case is noteworthy as it is the first time that the Supreme Court has dealt with the question of whether the participants in a reality television show hold neighbouring rights - although the question of the existence of employment contracts has already been subject to previous decisions.

For further information on this topic please contact Camille Pecnard at Hogan Lovells International LLP by telephone (+33 1 53 67 47 47), fax (+33 1 53 67 47 48) or email (camille.pecnard@hoganlovells.com).

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