Dr. Phil claims that Gawker caused his ratings to drop by lifting video from his show and he’s going after them for it. The copyright infringement suit is over the TV shrink’s interview with the man who says he fooled Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o into thinking he was his fake dead girlfriend. In an 8-page complaint (read it here) filed today in federal court in Texarkana, Texas, Dr. Phil Show copyright holders Peteski Productions sent notice to Gawker Media and its sports website Deadspin that they want unspecified damages and a jury trial. “Gawker deliberately set out to get ‘the jump’ on the rest of the country and ‘scoop’ Dr. Phil with his own content. They did not earn that right, they stole it. They did not conduct the interview, they stole it. They did not ask permission, they blatantly and knowingly infringed the copyright of the content owner and did so in a way that furthered their interest to the maximum and undercut the rightful owner of the protected material,” claims the complaint. The whole thing revolves around two episodes of the syndicated Dr. Phil Show that aired on January 31 and February 1 where the TV psychologist exclusively spoke to girlfriend impersonator and Te’o acquaintance Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
Related: ‘Dr. Phil’ Renewed Through 2016-17 Season
Previously Notre Dame’s Te’o claimed that he had a girlfriend called Lennay Kekua who had died from car accident and leukemia on September 11, 2012. They had met online and he played out the season in honor of the Standford student. As Deadspin revealed on January 16, it turned out Kekua wasn’t real and the footballer had been fooled. A couple of weeks later Dr, Phil was going to show everyone how it was done in a heavily promoted two part show – or so the show’s producer’s intended.
“In a premeditated plan to steal Peteski’s copyrighted material, Deadspin posted the video of the second show … not later than 9:30 AM Eastern Standard Time, hours before the Dr. Phil Show aired to over 98% of its viewers. … Although the second show was expected to exceed the ratings number of the first show, in fact, the ratings declined substantially because the result of the “CLIFFHANGER” was no longer in doubt. It had been misappropriated by Deadspin,” adds the filing. The 23-second clip showed Tuiasosopo behind a screen doing the voice that seemingly fooled Te’o. Peteski Productions is represented by Charles “Chip” Babcock, Carl Butzer and Nancy Hamilton of Dallas firm Jackson Walker and attorney George McWilliams of Texarkana.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.