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NORTHEAST OHIO 'Idol' Web site draws objection


Published: Thu, March 23, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


The show's parent company sent a cease-and-desist e-mail to the site's operator.
WILLOUGHBY, Ohio (AP) -- The parent company of the top-rated Fox show "American Idol" objects to a northeast Ohio man's Web site that helps fans phone in multiple votes for their favorite contestants.
A lawyer with the Los Angeles branch of London-based FremantleMedia Ltd. sent a cease-and-desist e-mail letter to the operator of www.dialidol.com.
The Web site offers a free download that tells a computer to make repeated calls to selected hot lines set up to vote for contestants. Jim Hellriegel Jr. receives data on the number of votes cast for each contestant and uses the numbers to post predictions about who will win -- before the live show that reveals the results.
The Web site went public this year. Hellriegel, 30, of Mentor-on-the-Lake, about 25 miles east of Cleveland, said about 750 people have downloaded the dialing program.
Accusations
A March 14 e-mail from FremantleMedia lawyer Joseph F. Scavetta accuses Hellriegel's Web site of unauthorized and unlawful use of "American Idol" intellectual property. The e-mail says the site uses the "American Idol" logo and music and allows visitors to download clips from broadcasts.
It also asks Hellriegel about profits made by the site.
Hellriegel said his site has never offered audio or video of the show. He said that funds generated by advertising on the site are used to pay for its upkeep.
Calls to Scavetta and a firm representing Fox were not returned to The (Willoughby) News-Herald.
Hellriegel said he spoke with Scavetta after receiving the letter and the two discussed the Web site's logo, which resembled the "American Idol" logo, and about the site's posting of results before the show's airing.
"I guess I can understand their position," Hellriegel said. "They're trying to protect their show, but I don't think I pose a threat to their show."
Hellriegel took down the site after receiving the letter and replaced it with a Web log about FremantleMedia's efforts to shut it down. He talked to an attorney and re-posted the site with a modified logo before Tuesday night's performance show.
The Web site contained a disclaimer that it was not affiliated with "American Idol," Fox or FremantleMedia.
The voting results from Tuesday night's show were to be announced in a show Wednesday night.


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