Downton Abbey jewellery line sparks legal row in US
Published 24/01/2012 | 09:28
AN AMERICAN television network that airs Downton Abbey is at the centre of a legal row amid claims it is cashing in on the series immense popularity across the Atlantic.
The American Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which has bought the rights to the hugely popular ITV1 period drama has launched the Downton Abbey Collection.
The line of jewellery is named after two of the series’ lead characters, Lady Mary Crawley and her sister, Lady Sybil.
PBS launched the collection, with items ranging in price from £44.95 to more than £100, for viewers keen to copy the style of Lady Mary and her sisters.
But the producers behind one of Britain’s most successful series have reportedly unhappy with the American network’s collection of jewellery.
Carnival Films, the UK producers of the series, has been forced to call in lawyers to stop PBS naming jewellery after the show's most famous character.
None of the profits from have been returned to writer and creator Julian Fellowes or Carnival, which own the copyright to the series.
The “Lady Mary knotted pearl necklace and earring set”, which retailed for $159.99 (€122), was selling well until Downton producers complained, the Daily Mail has reported.
The PBS merchandise website described the item as “the epitome of elegance, inspired by the character of Lady Mary Crawley, this luxuriously long pearl necklace and matching diamanté earring set is a must have for all ladies of quality”.
It added: “As it was in the Edwardian era, this stunning pearl necklace could easily move from your afternoon tea to evening dinner.”
Carnival, which has approved an official range of Downton DVDs and books, was suitably unimpressed when it was informed that PBS, its broadcast partner, was “cashing in” on the show’s popularity, the paper reported.
A spokesman for Carnival said on Tuesday: “We did not authorise the sale of Lady Mary jewellery. Our lawyers have been in contact with PBS in order to remove these items from sale.”
While PBS is continuing to sell the jewellery it has agreed to remove direct references to Lady Mary and other characters from the show and all mentions of Downton characters have now been deleted from the website.
The series won six Emma awards last year and was last week named best mini drama at the Golden Globes.
The show is the most popular British drama currently airing on American television, with an average four million viewers, which is more than high profile series such as Mad Men.
The second series of Downton Abbey lured 4.2 million viewers to the PBS network, doubling the cable network’s average audience.
Lord Fellowes, 62, has admitted he was surprised by its success in America. Last week Prof Simon Schama urged American viewers to abandon the show and its “silvered tureen of snobbery”.
A spokesman for PBS has not commented on the legal threats