One of the producers of the “Dr. Phil” TV show has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against online media company Gawker Media, basically claiming Gawker's Deadspin blog acted as a spoiler.
Peteski Productions claims that Gawker’s sports blog Deadspin infringed Peteski’s copyright by airing parts of Dr. Phil’s interview with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man at the center of the scandal that humiliated Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o earlier this year.
Peteski, based in Texas, filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The complaint, filed on Tuesday, says that Deadspin hatched “a pre-meditated plan to steal Peteski’s copyrighted material.”
Because Deadspin aired parts of the interview ahead of schedule, the suit alleges, the show attracted fewer viewers than it otherwise would have.
Interview came after Te’o “hoax”
The interview was explosive in and of itself. Tuiasosopo was the man who pretended to be Lennay Kekua, Te’o’s “girlfriend.” Kekua, who had supposedly died in September 2012, was often cited as a tragic part of Te’o’s personal background, and one that motivated him to throw all his effort into playing football.
Ironically, it was Deadspin that broke the news that Kekua didn’t actually exist, and was instead an elaborate “hoax” perpetuated by Tuiasosopo. The article, published on January 16, 2013, was entitled “Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax.”
After Deadspin discovered that Kekua never existed, Te’o said that he had “developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online.”
Gave away the ending
The interview with Tuiasosopo was aired in two sections -- one on January 31, 2013, and the next on February 1. The January 31 show ended with a suggestion that Tuiasosopo might, on the following show, use the same voice that he used when he pretended to be Kekua. The cliffhanger was ruined, the suit alleges, by the fact that Deadspin had already posted the footage on its site.
“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,” the complaint alleges.
“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.”
Peteski is seeking an injunction preventing Gawker from using additional copyrighted material from the “Dr. Phil” show, as well as damages.