A&E sues Reelz over On Patrol: Live , calling it 'a blatant rip-off' of Live PD

A&E Television Networks is suing ReelzChannel and producers Big Fish Entertainment and Half Moon Pictures, alleging that the new TV show On Patrol: Live is an unauthorized copy of the former series Live PD.

In a copyright infringement lawsuit filed in New York federal court Tuesday, A&E Television Networks alleged that they were the "sole and exclusive owner" of the rights to the original Live PD, which aired on their flagship network from 2016 to 2020.

Their argument calls On Patrol: Live a "clone" of Live PD, noting that the Reelz series features the same primary hosts, content, format, segments, and more.

Indeed, while speaking with EW in July, producer John Zito essentially acknowledged that the cancelation of Live PD led him and co-host Dan Abrams to seek a new home for their show. "Reelz believed in the show from its earliest iteration," he told EW. "And when talking to other interested parties about the show, there was not a lot of talk about bringing back the show in a completely different way. The original concept of the show is what everyone was interested in."

This EW interview is cited in the filing.

Dan Abrams and Curtis Wilson on 'On Patrol: Live'; Dan Abrams and Sean 'Sticks' Larkin on 'Live PD'
Dan Abrams and Curtis Wilson on 'On Patrol: Live'; Dan Abrams and Sean 'Sticks' Larkin on 'Live PD'

Reelz; A&E Dan Abrams and Curtis Wilson on 'On Patrol: Live'; Dan Abrams and Sean 'Sticks' Larkin on 'Live PD'

On Patrol: Live features LPD veteran hosts Dan Abrams and retired Tulsa police officer Sean "Sticks" Larkin, alongside new host Curtis Wilson, who was a featured participant on Live PD. It follows officers from seven police departments around the country every Friday and Saturday night from 9 p.m. to midnight.

The court filings outline the ways in which On Patrol: Live is, in the words of AETN, a "blatant rip-off" of Live PD.

"It covers the same, crime-related subject matter through the same format (i.e., a live series following police units around the country in real time, with hosts in studio curating and guiding the action, and pre-produced packages about cops/areas/hot cases during moments of quiet)," the documents read. "It features the same primary studio host and co-host, who describe the unfolding action using the exact same catchphrases they used on Live PD while dressed as they often were dressed on Live PD; it has live feeds in multiple cities following several of the same police departments as Live PD and even some of the same individual officers; it utilizes similar percussive opening and closing music; it copies the same program segments (e.g., "Crime of the Week," "Missing," and "Wanted"); it displays the officers' locations and their activity the same way; it transitions from scene to scene in the same way; episodes end in the same way, with footage of a police interaction continuing to play in the upper-middle part of a screen, while credits flash underneath in white font, with police lights flashing in the background; and it even airs during the same time slots (Friday and Saturday nights from 9 PM-12 AM)."

AETN also alleges that the working title of the new show was PD Live, until cease-and-desist letters prompted the change to On Patrol: Live.

A Reelz spokesperson said in a statement to EW on Tuesday that the company "has not been served with nor had an opportunity to review the Complaint in detail, and thus has no comment at this time beyond denying liability and expressing its ongoing commitment to On Patrol: Live."

A spokesperson for A&E declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Much of the court documents obtained by EW comment specifically on Zito, Abrams, and Reelz marketing of On: Patrol Live as "bringing back" Live PD. A&E Television Networks argues that though they suspended production of Live PD, they never sold or licensed their intellectual property rights elsewhere.

"In June 2020, amid nationwide protests against police brutality, AETN suspended production of new episodes of Live PD during that critical time in our nation's history," the filming reads. "AETN, however, has never relinquished or assigned its rights to create episodes of Live PD nor has it authorized anyone else to prepare derivative programs based upon Live PD except as works made-for-hire."

The documents also claim that AETN's outside counsel sent cease-and-desist letters in June and July of this year, warning Reelz and production company Big Fish Entertainment not to infringe on their intellectual property rights.

Furthermore, AETN alleges that the team behind On Patrol: Live has deliberately sought to mislead viewers into believing that the new show was Live PD "coming back" or "returning" on Reelz. They provide as evidence numerous interviews and pieces of social media promotion using words such as "we're back" and "returning," as well as side-by-side screenshot comparisons of both shows intended to show their similarities.

AETN is seeking punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial, as well as a portion of Reelz' profits, interest, legal costs, and attorneys' fees. They are also requesting that the defendants be barred from any further use of AETN's intellectual property.

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