The BBC is suing Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset television network after accusing the Italian broadcaster of copying its hit Strictly Come Dancing format.
BBC Worldwide, the Corporation's commercial wing, has accused Mediaset of copyright infringement after the network, controlled by the Italian Prime Minister's family, announced a racier version of the UK dancing show.
A BBC-licensed version of Strictly, Ballando Con Le Stelle (Dancing With The Stars), has run for six years on the Italian public broadcaster Rai.
The rival Mediaset will next week launch a competitor show on Canale 5 called Baila!, an adaptation of a South American dance show, Bailando Por Un Sueno (Dancing For A Dream).
The South American version, aired in countries including Mexico and Peru, trades on the "passion and sensuality" between the scantily-clad dancers. The BBC threatened legal action to protect its brand when a model danced topless and simulated sex on the Argentine version of Bailando, described as "pornographic". BBC Worldwide has joined Rai in a lawsuit currently being considered by a court in Rome. Mediaset denies plagiarism.
Where the Rai show partners celebrities with professional dancers, like the UK Strictly, the Mediaset version, made by Big Brother producers Endemol, pairs talented amateur dancers with celebrities.
Pier Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister's son and deputy chairman of Mediaset, was quoted as saying it was "Ok to copy ideas" in television.
Pier Silvio later clarified his position, saying: "It is a dancing talent show with the peculiarity of involving both celebrities and normal people. The dance talent show is a format that works on commercial television everywhere in the world. We certainly wouldn't claim that the only reality format is Big Brother."
The BBC said: "BBC Worldwide takes the protection of its copyright extremely seriously and is currently undertaking legal action in Italy to protect its Dancing With The Stars format.
"It has been named as the world's most successful reality TV format and has been licensed to over 35 international broadcasters. It is very important to BBC Worldwide and its international licensees that the format is protected from infringement."