Reality shows have been popular since the beginning of 2000s and they still bear the title of most watched TV programs worldwide including Turkish TVs. These programs, being most watched and most earner ones, constitute subjects of many disputes between creators, producers and TV channels.
The question if program formats are accepted as work under Turkish Copyright Law is an attractive area because of common foreign TV format licensing and Turkish court decisions relating to reality shows and similar TV formats.
Turkish Law on Intellectual and Artistic Works ("Law") regulates the types of Work on numerus clausus principle and it is not possible to add another work type which is not written in the Law. The types of intellectual and artistic works stated under the Law are literary and scientific works; musical works; works of fine arts and cinematographic works. It is also accepted in doctrine that the works falling under these regulated types are not restricted and that the Law solely provides examples under relevant types of intellectual and artistic works.
The Law does not stipulate a work type such as "Television Works" but television programs/formats may also be protected under the Law if they meet the required conditions of an intellectual and artistic work type stated under the Law.
In this context, it should be asked if television programs can be evaluated under cinematographic works. According to article 5 of the Law; cinematographic works shall be works such as films of an artistic, scientific, educational or technical nature or films recording daily events or movies; they shall consist of a series of related moving images with or without sound and they, regardless of the material in which they are fixed, shall able to be shown by the use of electronic or mechanical or similar devices.
While it may be easily interpreted that the Television films, animations, documentaries or cartons shall fall under the "cinematographic works"; it is disputable whether quiz shows, competitions programs, discussion programs, cooking shows and reality shows may be deemed as a work under the Law.
Turkish Supreme Court states in its 05.04.2005 dates decision that "According to article 5 of Law on Intellectual and Artistic Works, program formats shall also be accepted and protected as works". In another decision dated 31.10.2000 Supreme Court decided that "The tabloid program Televole shall be deemed as a work under article 5 of the Law". Supreme Court also states in a 2011 decision that "competition program format" is a work under the Law. On the other hand, there are cases where Supreme Court states that a television program shall not be deemed as a work under the Law because of its lack of detailed explanations and because the program format does not bear the characteristics of its creator.
In the light of above Supreme Court decisions; it should be noted that television programs/formats are not automatically deemed as works under the Law and detailed evaluations shall be made specific to each case. Particularly, there are different opinions in doctrine if the live shows meet the fixing/recording condition of article 5 of the Law. The opinion, to which we agree, discusses that "for these types of creations, the ability to be recorded/fixed shall be deemed as meeting the recording criteria and they should be analysed in terms of meeting other preconditions for works – especially cinematographic works – under the Law."1
Since television programs and formats are not automatically deemed as works under the Law, in order to seek protection of the Law, it is important to structure these projects in the correct way, document them in due form and to fulfil other requirements of the Law properly during preproduction/creation stage before starting/executing the project.
1 Tosun, Yalçın, Sinema Eserleri ve Eser Sahibinin Hakları, Ocak 2013, 155.
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