Oprah Sued For Copyright Infringement After Quoting A Book On TV Without Credit

from the taking-on-Oprah,-huh? dept

A guy named Charles Harris, who wrote a political booklet about the process by which America elects Presidents, is apparently suing Oprah Winfrey for copyright infringement, saying that she "plagiarized" his work, when she quoted it on her TV show, without crediting him. Basically, the guy had sent copies of the booklet to Winfrey, hoping to get some free publicity out of it. However, on one show she apparently (he alleges) directly read aloud some questions from his booklet, but did so without crediting him. Of course, plagiarism, by itself, isn't against the law, so he's trying to twist this into a copyright lawsuit, saying she had no license to read the questions aloud. You can see the filing below:
It's hard to see how he can legitimately claim that Oprah reading the questions has caused him "substantial injury, loss and damage to his property" or that it's "damage" for his "business reputation and goodwill." And, not surprisingly, he's asking for the maximum statutory rate of $150,000. Of course, you could (and many probably will) argue that the guy knows the lawsuit is bogus, and that there's no "damage," but is using the lawsuit to get publicity for his booklet...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Michael, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 10:46am

    Could go two ways...

    Oprah could just pay the guy and make this go away.

    Or...Oprah could fight this. Who the heck wants to risk fighting Oprah? That's like picking a fight with Chuck Norris.

    One way or another, I think this is going to quietly go away - and we are pretty likely to never hear from this guy again.

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 10:50am

      Re: Could go two ways...

      Wait wait wait...

      Did you just say Oprah is like Chuck Norris?!?

      Which alternate universe do you hail from, traveler?

       

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        Free Capitalist (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 12:53pm

        Re: Re: Could go two ways...

        Did you just say Oprah is like Chuck Norris?!?

        Which alternate universe do you hail from, traveler?

        Now I really want a graphic novel version of Chuck Norris vs. Oprah Winfrey

        While each of their powers are formidable, I'm thinking Chuck could lay a real good debunking on her in a street fight...

        Might not be Superman v. Green Lantern....

         

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        Michael, Oct 29th, 2010 @ 4:32am

        Re: Re: Could go two ways...

        All I'm saying is that if Chuck and Oprah got into a fight, the world would collapse into a black hole.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 2:45pm

      Re: Could go two ways...

      funniest analogy ever

       

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      Miso Susanowa, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 8:23pm

      Re: Could go two ways...

      Wait... if Oprah is like Chuck Norris... and you are saying "this is going to quietly go away - and we are pretty likely to never hear from this guy again"... Are you implying that Oprah is going to kill this guy?!?!?!

       

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    Revelati, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 10:55am

    He is probably dangling from a rope over a sty of ravenous hogs and/or Oprah fans as we speak. Waiting for "she who will no be named" to give the order for him to be lowered down.

     

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    "Many", Oct 28th, 2010 @ 10:57am

    And so I do.

    Will. Do. Did.

     

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    John Doe, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 10:58am

    I predict his next book...

    I predict his next book will be about abusing the courts for fun and profit.

     

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    Cowardly Annon, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 11:02am

    Wouldn't surprise me if he's just hoping Oprah will settle and give him money to make him go away.

     

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    Pierre Wolff (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 11:11am

    Attention?

    Sounds like this could be more about getting attention. As well, wouldn't this fall into "fair use"...whatever that is these days ;)

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 11:32am

    Yet another example...

    ... of how copyright is an infringement on free speech. If you can't repeat the argument that you're refuting/supporting, you can't speak freely.

     

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    Rikuo (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 11:35am

    If this is a call for attention

    Isn't this a bit stupid? If he is suing simply to get attention for this booklet, it creates a negative connotation with the author. So a random Joe read the newspaper, reads "Oprah quoted some questions and is getting sued".
    Do you think random Joe feels like he should buy the booklet?

     

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      Ron Rezendes (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 11:54am

      Re: If this is a call for attention

      Random Joe better hope this guy isn't connected to the newspaper or he'll get his just like Oprah! How dare he read, that Oprah read excerpts from his book w/o credit!

      If this guy lined his dominoes up before this all started he could sue everyone who even mentions the story!

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 12:07pm

    It does seem a bit of a stretch, based upon the facts alleged in the complaint, to pigeonhole this matter into any of the six enumerated rights under copyright as stated in 17 USC 104. For example, an allegation is made that the work was "used", and yet "use" is not one of the enumerated rights.

     

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      dnball (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 1:37pm

      Re: Plagiarism v. Copyright Infringement

      "Plagiarism" is a catchall term that, in certain circumstances, of which this might be one, that includes the legal wrong of breach of an implied-in-fact contract.

      There is, in fact, a legally cognizable cause of action for "plagiarism" if the plagiarist appropriated material submitted to the plagiarist by someone who, based on the circumstances, could reasonably assume that the material would not be used w/o permission.

      The field of law is "idea submission law" and the cause of action sounds in contract -- NOT copyright as it appears this plaintiff is asserting. See, for example, http://goo.gl/qlJo .

       

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    Atkray (profile), Oct 28th, 2010 @ 12:15pm

    I can't help but think of the possibility of Oprah pulling out some old dusty booklet that is in fact where this joker got his material from.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 1:05pm

    The guy was hoping for a free plug and when she read from his book but didn't get mentioned, he got mad.

     

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    CN, Oct 28th, 2010 @ 11:19pm

    How it should go...

    The judge ought to say "This is bogus, wasting the court's time and taxpayer's money. Bailiff, throw this asshole in jail."

     

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    A. Consumer, Oct 30th, 2010 @ 8:49pm

    Guy suing Oprah

    I think he should've gotten her permission to use the clip of her reading the questions and used that to publicize his book in a positive way. I would like to know how he got the book to her. I have a book i would like her to read. It might just change her life. it changed mine.

     

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