In a scene from the 2007 thriller “Disturbia,” a young man is caught by his movie mom watching “Bikini Destinations.”
But the show, which features soft music and bikini-clad models posing at exotic locations, has created more than just embarrassing moments for teen boys. The magazine-style travel show is creating a legal tug-of-war as the show’s creator and her ex-boyfriend are each claiming the rights.
Victoria Vogel, a model-turned-entrepreneur, said she conceived the bikini show after doing photo shoots at exotic locations for the now-defunct Skin Diver magazine.
“All of my girlfriends were models,” Vogel said. “It was a natural idea. And one thing I couldn’t give up was traveling to exotic places.”
As production of “Bikini Destinations” began in the early 2000s, Vogel was dating Los Angeles producer Casey Bennett. But the romantic relationship ended.
The subsequent dispute centers on Vogel’s claim that his company, Bennett Productions Inc., started selling “Bikini Destinations” without her knowledge. The program is still in production.
To fight for her rights to the show, Vogel hired Los Angeles litigators Alexander Gareeb and Christopher Pham, who filed a federal lawsuit in December 2007.
In her suit, Vogel claims Bennett violated her copyrights and trademarks. She is also asking the judge to grant her sole ownership of the copyrights.
Bennett’s attorney denies all of Vogel’s allegations. Federal Judge George Wu is scheduled to hear Bennett’s motion to have the case dismissed Thursday.
Vogel’s lawsuit isn’t uncommon in the entertainment industry, as disputes over intellectual property rights and idea theft are routine.
Los Angeles entertainment lawyer John Gatti said the concept of a bikini show is not subject to copyright, but actual sketches, descriptions and story lines can be.
“What is protected is the expression of the idea,” Gatti said. “If someone created a treatment that describes a show or how the show is going to work episodically, it is protected under copyright.”
From 1998 and into the early 2000s, Vogel said she started sketching ideas for “Bikini Destinations.” Then she started Marina del Rey-based VV Sterling Corp. to produce and market the program.
Web site, videos
The Texas native, who still has a hint of a Southern twang, also developed the Bikini Network as a production company and launched a Web site, bikininetwork.com, to market and distribute “Bikini Destinations” videos.
“I wanted to create a look that people would immediately know was ‘Bikini Destinations,’ ” Vogel said.
Bennett made a name for himself as a cinematographer in the extreme sports industry, and serves as president of the Bennett Group. Through his media enterprise, Bennett produces and distributes high-definition programming for men, including “Beyond the List,” a program that features trendy cars, restaurants and clubs.
Bennett declined to comment for this story, but his lawyer, Melvin Avanzado, said Vogel has no evidence to prove she was involved in the production of “Bikini Destinations.”
“She appeared in a couple of shows as a model and spokesperson, but she didn’t do any editing or cinematography,” Avanzado said.
But, Vogel said she helped edit raw footage from the shoots and created the nautical-themed opening sequence featured on the shows.
After the show started airing on Dallas-based HDNet LLC in 2002, Bennett and Vogel’s romantic relationship ended. Vogel said they maintained a business relationship.
Vogel said the program was later broadcast in L.A. and abroad without her knowledge. She continued to sell “Bikini Destinations” videos through bikininetworks.com, but couldn’t make enough money, so she went into the mortgage business.
Vogel filed a lawsuit against Bennett in Los Angeles state court in 2006 after discovering that “Bikini Destinations” was broadcast on TV stations, including KTLA (Channel 5). A Superior Court judge granted Bennett’s motion to have the case dismissed in January, but Vogel has appealed.
Vogel said she wants to put the dispute behind her, and eventually get back to working in the entertainment industry, this time with financial backing.
“This is my passion,” she said. “I don’t know what else to do.”