The Bachelor and the Blogger: ABCs lawsuit against Reality Steve
There's no rose for Reality Steve
Should a large corporation be allowed to use the courts to bully and bankrupt an individual they find annoying? Should an entertainment reporter be forced to reveal his sources? The corporation in question is the production company for ABC's The Bachelor, Bachelorette and Bachelor Pad. And the object of their irritation is Steve Carbone, the blogger known as Reality Steve. Reality Steve has been providing spoilers for ABC's The Bachelor since 2009. Many other bloggers and entertainment shows do the same thing, but Reality Steve's high rate of accuracy has made him the target of a $75,000 lawsuit filed on December 6, 2011.
Matthew Chan of ExtortionLetterInfo.com has written a series of articles analyzing the merits of the lawsuit filed by the Bachelor Series show producers and distributors (NZK Productions Inc. and Horizons Alternative Television Inc.). You can read details of the lawsuit against Reality Steve here.
Update: January 2013. ABC sues Reality Steve again
Reality Steve fights back
ABC has once again filed a lawsuit against Reality Steve claiming that he violated their agreement by contacting members of the cast or crew of The Bachelor. ABC failed to disclose any evidence of wrongdoing. They seem to be saying that because the spoilers are so accurate, they must have been obtained illegally.
This time Reality Steve is fighting back, trying to get the lawsuit dismissed for interfering with his First Amendment rights.
You can read more details in this article from the HollywoodReporter.com.
Update: 7/10/12. More trouble brewing for Reality Steve following Twitter feud
Mike Fleiss gloats, "You just made my day punk"
Evidently, producing such fine programming as The Bachelor, Bachelorette and Bachelor Pad leaves Mike Fleiss with plenty of time to engage in a Twitter feud with Reality Steve. Fleiss still doesn't get that Reality Steve's spoilers add to the fan experience and have increased ratings, and Reality Steve doesn't get that you shouldn't poke an angry bear with a stick (or something like that).
But did Reality Steve violate the settlement agreement with Bachelor producers? Reality Steve was not to directly or indirectly initiate contact with any of the cast or crew of the Bachelor franchise. It could be that Fleiss considers Reality Steve responding to him on Twitter contact, although from what I can tell, he's not the one who initiated it. Here's how it started:
Mike Fleiss tweets:
July 7, 1:22 pm:
The live AFR will shock everyone who "thinks they know" how this season ends. It's not over til it's over!!!
July 7, 5:33 pm:
Just my opinion, but people who get off on "spoiling" shows for other viewers are sad and pathetic. Get a life!!!
Reality Steve tweets:
July 7, 5:42 pm:
@fleissmeister Cmon at least throw in my Twitter name or plug my site in your tweets to bring even more attention to me. #BFFs
If this is a violation of their agreement, then what's the punishment? Another frivolous lawsuit, or a hefty fine (or "fin" as Fleiss spelled it)? We'll just have to wait and see.
Read more of their tweets:
Another article of interest:
How this incident was resolved: ABC received information from a former contestant (Erica Rose) that she was offered payment for Bachelor secrets. ABC notified Reality Steve that he had violated their agreement, which he denied, but he paid the $10,000 fine rather than rack up more legal fees by fighting it in court.
Update: June 4, 2012. Bachelor producers have dropped the lawsuit against Reality Steve
On June 4, 2012, the lawsuit filed by The Bachelor producers against Reality Steve was dropped after Steve Carbone agreed not to have any further contact with the cast, crew or employees of the show. You can read more about that here.
Reality Steve announced that his website will continue as usual, and that he doesn't have to pay The Bachelor producers any money. He has always maintained that the lawsuit was without merit.
The evolution of Reality Steve
Who is Reality Steve
Most of us dream about making money from our hobbies. You hear people say, do what you love and the money will follow. Steve Carbone of Texas is one of the lucky ones who made that happen. With nothing more than a computer and an opinion, Steve turned his hobby into a money-making venture.
In the beginning around 2003, Steve Carbone was just a fan of the Bachelor. After each episode he felt inspired to write a recap of the show, basically making fun of it. He'd email it to all of his friends. They found his recaps so funny that they forwarded his emails to their friends, and so on. Eventually his fan base grew so large that Steve decided to post his musings on a blog. So from 2004 to 2009, Steve just posted recaps of the Bachelor. He also reviewed other shows like American Idol, Survivor and Dancing with the Stars. He even branched out into giving advice to the lovelorn with his Dr. Reality Steve column. His fans love (or hate) every golden word.
Then in 2009 with Jason Mesnick's season, those Bachelor recaps turned into spoilers. Insiders began providing Steve with details about The Bachelor way before the show ever aired. They gave him names, dates, locations, pictures--everything. And Steve posted it on his blog. They also provided info on the inner workings of the show such as the casting process, the editing process, behind-the-scenes gossip. Reality Steve's fan base grew to the point where he was able to quit his day job and devote himself entirely to his blog. His spoiler accuracy has made Reality Steve the go-to guy for all things Bachelor.
ABC's lawsuit against Reality Steve
People who are cast on the Bachelor are required to sign confidentiality contracts with up to a five million dollar penalty if violated. Employees are also under contract to keep mum. But that hasn't been enough to stop the flow of information to Reality Steve. Frustrated at their attempts to find the source of the leaks, ABC decided to go after Reality Steve. On December 6, 2011 they filed a $75,000 lawsuit against him for "tortious interference." They claim Reality Steve has been inducing Bachelor show participants and employees to share private information.
Reality Steve has denied all their allegations and refuses to divulge the names of his sources. He has vowed to fight for his First Amendment rights. But the wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow, and for the last two months the parties have been doing battle over where the real battle should be fought. ABC wants the case to be tried in California, and Steve Carbone wants the case to be tried in his home state of Texas. This preliminary fight alone has racked up tens of thousands of dollars worth of legal fees. Within the last couple of weeks, Steve has put a Donate button on his site for his fans to make Paypal contributions to his legal defense fund.
ABC has the burden to prove that Reality Steve's spoilers have hurt their Bachelor franchise. So far there doesn't seem to be any evidence to support their claim. In fact, most people who comment on Reality Steve's website say they only watch The Bachelor because of reading the spoilers and inside information he reports. ABC's real motivation behind the lawsuit appears to be finding out the identity of the informants.
Where do you weigh in?
Is it fair for ABC to use the legal system to force Reality Steve to reveal his sources?
Please show your support for Reality Steve in his fight against ABC's The Bachelor lawsuit
Here are some things you can do to help Reality Steve in the fight of his life against the giant ABC:
- Sign the Reality Steve Extortion Lawsuit petition at Change.org
- Support Mission: Red Stars (Reject Extortion Demands, Stop The Attack on Reality Steve) on Facebook and Twitter.
- Submit Paypal contributions for his legal defense fund through RealitySteve.com
© 2012 Lynda Makara