Donald Trump has found a new avenue to sue the media: Copyright.
Trump filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday, alleging that Bob Woodward and his publisher, Simon & Schuster, needed his permission before releasing the audio book The Trump Tapes last year. The audiobook is a collection of 20 interviews that Woodward conducted with Trump.
“Said audio was protected material, subject to various limitations on use and distribution—as a matter of copyright, license, contract, basic principles of the publishing industry, and core values of fairness and consent,” according to the lawsuit (read it here). Among other things, Woodward interviewed Trump for his book Rage, released in 2020. The book was a bombshell, as Trump admitted that he wanted to play down the Covid threat in the early weeks of the pandemic.
The lawsuit names Woodward, Simon & Schuster and the publisher’s parent Paramount Global as defendants.
Trump claims that the defendants’ “ongoing concerted efforts to profit off the protected audio recordings and the works they have distributed derived from the protected audio recordings have caused President Trump to sustain substantial damages, necessitating the institution of this action.”
Trump is seeking at least $49.98 million in damages. He also wants a judge to declare that he owns the interview sounds recordings, a number of which were conducted in the Oval Office.
Woodward and Simon & Schuster issued a joint statement calling the lawsuit “without merit” while vowing to “aggressively defend against it.”
“All these interviews were on the record and recorded with President Trump’s knowledge and agreement,” they said. “Moreover, it is in the public interest to have this historical record in Trump’s own words. We are confident that the facts and the law are in our favor.”
Trump is no stranger to suing media figures, often with lawsuits quickly dismissed. A defamation lawsuit against the New York Times, filed by the Trump campaign in 2020, was tossed out on the grounds that what was written was non-actionable opinion. Another lawsuit filed by the campaign against CNN also was dismissed. More recently, Trump filed another lawsuit against CNN, this time over the use of the term “The Big Lie” to refer to Trump’s unfounded and false claims about the 2020 presidential election. CNN’s legal team has called the lawsuit “baseless and nothing more than political theater,” while arguing that the litigation should be dismissed because the use of the term “The Big Lie” has not been shown to be verifiably false or actionable.
Earlier this month, Trump and his attorney were ordered to pay nearly $1 million in court sanctions by a federal judge who said that they had engaged in a “continuing pattern of misuse” of the courts. The judge, Donald Middlebrooks, had dismissed a lawsuit Trump filed against Hillary Clinton and 30 others, but he also cited the CNN case and litigation against the Pulitzer board and Twitter as examples of the “widespread and persistent conduct” of suing people.
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