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Telemundo Sued Over Venezuelan Telenovela

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South Florida Crime

HIALEAH (CBSMiami) — Hialeah-based Telemundo, the second largest Spanish network in the U.S., is being called a thief.

LaTele Television, a Venezuelan TV network, sued Spanish-language media corporation Telemundo Communications Group, claiming it stole its popular 1989 telenovela “Maria, Maria.”

If true, this would be a departure from Telemundo’s long-held practice of producing most of its own telenovelas. In 2011, 85 percent of the network’s telenovelas were filmed at its studios.

The Venezuelan network said Telemundo’s hit show “El Rostro de Analia” (The face of Analia) may be set in Los Angeles in the early 2000s, but otherwise it’s the same convoluted story as LaTele’s earlier show, according to a complaint filed June 10 in federal court in Miami. The complaint accuses the Hilaleah-based Telemundo of violating the Venezuelan copyright of “Maria, Maria.”

The suit alleges any differences are cosmetic, “specifically aimed at masking that ‘El Rostro’ is, in fact, simply ‘Maria, Maria’ updated and repackaged in a different setting.”

The same author also penned both tales, which are of course grounded in the classic telenovela pillars of betrayal, amnesia and switched identities.

In both shows, two women drive over a cliff in a car that explodes. One woman is presumed dead. The other is badly disfigured and has amnesia, and the two women’s identities are mixed up. The survivor’s face is reconstructed to look like the woman thought dead — which leads to plenty of confusion when it is revealed that both women actually survived the crash.

“LaTele’s claim that Telemundo infringed on an alleged copyright it purportedly has in a telenovela is completely without merit,” Telemundo said in a statement Friday. The company said it “will vigorously defend itself from these baseless claims in court.”

LaTele attorney James Sammataro said his client waited more than two years to sue because the company hoped to have a working relationship with Telemundo.

“Look, when you are the producer of telenovelas, the last thing you want to do is sue the second largest Spanish-language broadcast company in the U.S.,” he said.

LaTele sought copyright protection in Venezuela in 1991 but not in the U.S. until 2010, a year after “El Rostro” aired. U.S. law, however, recognizes the earlier Venezuelan copyright under international treaties, the lawsuit states.

LaTele alleges “El Rostro” has been extremely profitable for Telemundo and has been rebroadcast in countries around the world. LaTele is seeking unspecified damages. No hearing dates have been set.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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