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Pirate Master: Mark Burnett Sued Over Cancelled Reality Show

Pirate MasterA couple years ago, CBS aired a reality show called Pirate Master. The series’ competition revolves around a group of regular people who sail on an old-style ship, take part in pirate-like challenges, and compete to win a million dollar treasure.

Pirate Master wasn’t a ratings success and CBS pulled it off the air after eight episodes. The network made the remaining six episodes available online but, as so often happens, many on-air didn’t know it. Many viewers were angered and never found out who won the booty and the title of Pirate Master. (For the record, it was the contestant pictured at right; Ben Fagan from Charleston, SC.)

Now, long after the show was cancelled, creator Mark Burnett is being sued over the series. TMZ has reported that James Papa has filed a $2 million lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court against him.

Papa claims that Pirate Master is actually his creation and that he came up with the idea back in 2003. He says that he registered the concept with the US Copyright Office and that Burnett plundered his idea of “having a reality show on a pirate ship and making eliminated contestants walk the plank.”

This is just the latest in a number of unfortunate events surrounding this show. On July 27, 2007, former contestant Cheryl Kosewicz died from an apparent suicide. Kosewicz reportedly blames the show for causing friction between herself and her boyfriend who’d taken his own life two months earlier.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Adam Decker December 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Does anyone know what happened with the lawsuit? Was it a stolen idea or not?


Adam Decker December 11, 2010 at 4:46 pm

The summer is normally never a good time to air a new series, so I don’t know why they put it on then. I know it worked with Survivor, but it normally fails with anything else. Also, does anyone know what happened with the lawsuit? Who won?


Pam July 29, 2010 at 6:32 am

I wish us views that LOVED that show could get in on the lawsuit. I don’t know why or how they could take any show off the air in mid season. I can understand not doing another season, but at least finish the shows the viewers thought they were going to see. It’s not like no one watched, we got a lot of people hooked on it, then they took it off the air. Bad move CBS.


WolvenSpectre July 6, 2009 at 8:16 am

Those aren’t the only 2 deaths that are tied to the Pirate Master reality show. A Canadian Hockey Legend’s daughter died on the ship, the Picton Castle, to do with getting the ship to the shows location. Accusations of coverups and wrongful death.

The Fifth Estate covered the story in depth in a report called “Overboard” and is available streaming from the CBC at


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