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Dr. Phil Sues Gawker Over Deadspin's Use of Video

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on May 07, 2013 12:32 PM

"Dr. Phil's" producers are suing Gawker Media for posting his interview with Manti Te'o's catfishing hoaxster on its sports gossip blog, Deadspin.com.

The suit claims that Gawker stole copyrighted material and posted the juiciest parts of the interview online before the "Dr. Phil" episode aired, resulting in lower ratings for the second episode of the two-part interview.

The claim also takes aim beyond Deadspin's specific use of this one video, including any incident in which copyrighted material is posted online before it airs on TV in all time zones, reports UPI.

The 'Dr. Phil' Lawsuit

The "Dr. Phil" lawsuit alleges Deadspin published the second part of his interview with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo -- including the part where Tuiasosopo spoke in the fake girlfriend's voice -- "hours before the Dr. Phil show aired to over 98% of its viewers."

The suit claims the second part of the interview received lower ratings because the cliffhanger of whether Tuiasosopo would speak in the girlfriend's voice was left unclear after the first half, reports UPI.

The complaint used an extended metaphor to get the message across to anyone who posts a show online before it airs:

"A remora is a fish, sometimes called a suckerfish, which attaches itself to other fish like sharks. The host fish gains nothing from the relationship but the remora is enriched by obtaining benefits (usually food and transportation) from the host... Gawker received substantial benefits from its infringement but [Dr. Phil production company] Pateski received nothing that is, unless its damages are compensated in this lawsuit."

Injunction, Damages Sought

To spear the alleged suckerfish, the lawsuit demands an injunction against Gawker's further use of copyrighted "Dr. Phil" material, along with punitive damages for losses to be proven at trial.

An injunction is a court order that forces a party to either do or stop doing something. Here, the injunction would be for Gawker to stop posting "Dr. Phil's" copyrighted content before it airs.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant to punish the wrongdoer and to deter others from behaving similarly. In this case, "Dr. Phil's" attorneys are trying to send a strong message to any other remora fish out there in the digital deep blue sea to find their own fish food.

In most cases, punitive damages can't be awarded under the Copyright Act, but such damages may actually be recoverable under certain circumstances. A few folks, however, think punitive damages are excessive because infringers usually have to give back profits gained from infringement.

Can't they just hug it out?

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