'Love & Hip Hop' creators win dismissal of copyright lawsuit

By Jonathan Stempel
Reuters
A woman exits the Viacom Inc. headquarters in New York
A woman exits the Viacom Inc. headquarters in New York April 30, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - Viacom Inc and the creators of "Love & Hip Hop" have won the dismissal of a federal lawsuit claiming they stole the idea for the popular VH1 reality TV franchise.

In a decision made public on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson in Los Angeles said 8th Wonder Entertainment LLC, Nickie Lum-Davis and Trisha Lum failed to show substantial similarity between "Love & Hip Hop" and their "Hip Hop Wives."

The plaintiffs said they pitched their work in 2009 and thought VH1 had given a green light, only to have the network back away because it did not want another "urban" show with a similar audience to its "Basketball Wives."

But they said the original "Love & Hip Hop," which premiered in March 2011, ended up being "virtually identical" to "Hip Hop Wives," and even featured one of its proposed cast members, Chrissy Lampkin. The plaintiffs sought a variety of damages.

Pregerson, however, said much of "Hip Hop Wives" was based on themes such as child-rearing, infidelity and legal troubles that were already common in the "saturated" reality TV market, including in the "Real Housewives" franchise.

"The court is able to identify few, if any, protectable elements that would give rise to a claim for copyright infringement," despite there being "a few random similarities scattered throughout the work," Pregerson wrote.

James Bryant, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

Viacom did not immediately respond to requests for comment on behalf of the New York-based company, its VH1 network and producers of "Love & Hip Hop."

The case is 8th Wonder Entertainment LLC et al v. Viacom International Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 14-01748.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)