December 19th, 2011
LOS ANGELES (CN) – A woman claims the Discovery Channel “flat-out” stole the idea for its “Weed Wars” show from a pitch she made it in June 2010.
Kylie Krabbe sued Discovery Communications in Superior Court.
Krabbe claims she pitched her idea for a show called “Greener Pastures,” at Discovery’s offices in Maryland, after winning a national contest sponsored by CINE, the Council on International Nontheatrical Events, which was later headed by Discovery executive Rita Mullin.
Krabbe claims that Mullin and other industry executives were on the panel to whom she made her pitch.
“It turns out that this so-called ‘contest’ and ‘award’ was merely an elaborate ruse by Discovery to identify and target the best novel ideas to steal under false pretenses-in direct violation of established California law,” the complaint states. “Discovery ‘passed’ on plaintiff’s pitch, saying the subject matter was ‘too edgy’ for it. Yet, either simultaneously or within days of uttering these pretextual reasons for rejection, Discovery approached another producer to create a show using all of plaintiff’s ideas. ‘Weed Wars’ premiered on the Discovery Channel one year later. Not only is the general concept of ‘Weed Wars’ identical to plaintiff’s ‘Greener Pastures,’ but so are numerous concrete details regarding the plot, themes, characters and sequence of events.”
Krabbe’s attorney Devin McRae told Courthouse News that the case was “a textbook case of idea theft.”
“It’s indisputable that Ms. Krabbe submitted her ideas to Discovery on the condition of payment for their use. Discovery unarguably had access to Ms. Krabbe’s ideas. There are several specific concrete similarities between Ms. Krabbe’s pitch materials and ‘Weed Wars,'” McRae said.
Krabbe claims that before Discovery ripped off her idea, Mullin encouraged her to cast the show and to get a production company attached, so as to protect her interests as an unproven producer. Krabbe followed that advice, “spending considerable time, energy and resources” to cast the show and attach a producer, GOTV, according to the complaint.
Krabbe says she cast Joanna Laforce as the owner of three medical marijuana dispensaries in California. Members of Laforce’s family were also cast to appear in the show, she says.
Krabbe says she pitched the show to Mullin and another executive at Discovery’s Los Angeles office in August 2010. They passed on the show but Mullin introduced Krabbe to another executive at Discovery’s Planet Green Channel, according to the complaint. That executive also rejected the project, citing concerns that the show would turn off advertisers, Krabbe says.
“Discovery simply decided to steal plaintiff’s ideas and had initiated, or soon thereafter did initiate, contact with another producer, Chuck Braverman, to make a show using plaintiff’s ideas, but rather than casting Laforce who was under contract with plaintiff, casting D’Angelo, who was identified in plaintiff’s pitch materials as, in essence, Laforce’s mirror image in Northern California,” according to the complaint.
The complaint cites several ideas in “Weed Wars” that it claims are “unique to ‘Green Pastures,'” including the use of a family-run dispensary, a head of family who is a “visionary and political activist,” and the risk the family faces “because of the illegality, on the federal level, of medicinal marijuana, as well as the possibility every day that the entire business empire could be shut down at a moment’s notice.”
McRae told Courthouse News: “It has been reported that Discovery approached Braverman’s production company with the idea to produce ‘Weed Wars’ at the same time Discovery told Ms. Krabbe that the subject matter of medicinal marijuana was ‘too edgy’ and of no interest to it.”
Krabbe seeks damages for breach of implied-in-fact contract, plus screen credit and royalties. The only defendants are Discovery Communications Inc. and Does 1-20.
Discovery declined to comment.
McRae is a partner in Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae.
Source: Matt Reynolds, Courthouse News