Dr. Phil Sues Deadspin For Reporting On Manti T'eo Hoax Even Though Deadspin Broke The Story
from the who's-leeching-off-whom? dept
If you recall the insane concept of “hot news,” you know all about the attempt to treat factual information as intellectual property as long as you were breaking that information as news. Courts have since seen through that kind of insanity, but that doesn’t keep some of the more obnoxious organizations out there from attempting end-arounds that amount to the same thing. And since I used the word “obnoxious,” you just had to know that the latest example of this is going to feature Dr. Phil, who is every bit an M.D. as I am a velociraptor.
Many months back when people still gave a damn about college football, Dr. Phil had a two-part series with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man who says he perpetrated the hoax of a fake, dead girlfriend on Notre Dame linebacker and now NFL draft-dropper Manti T’eo. Deadspin covered the story, including the use of clips from the show, in which Tuiasosopo performed his falsetto girl-voice in one of the most awkward television moments this side of that one time when Tom finally caught Jerry and ripped his limbs off in victory (FYI, that never happened). Dr. Phil has apparently cried copyright foul. His reason for this is that some of history’s worst math mixed with a touch of irony told him that Deadspin’s coverage cost him massive amounts of viewers.
Peteski Productions is arguing that Deadspin spoiled a two-part cliffhanger on the Dr. Phil program by posting a clip of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo speaking in what he said was the voice of the fictitious girlfriend “hours before the Dr. Phil Show aired to over 98% of its viewers.” In other words, the clip was posted after the episode of Dr. Phil had already been broadcast in some markets, breaking the show’s own news blackout on the question of whether or not Tuiasosopo would perform the female voice.
According to Broadcasting & Cable, the first and second parts of the interview drew 4.8 million and 4.3 million viewers respectively, exceeding the show’s average of 4.1 million. That performance helped make Dr. Phil the No. 1 rated syndicated talk show for that sweeps period.
Keep the math we’re discussing here in mind, because the level of stupid is about to approach epic proportions. Dr. Phil’s ratings during those two shows exceeded their averages. Meanwhile, the two Deadspin posts in question garnered a grand total of 164k views together. The lawsuit alledges that the second Deadspin post, which had 103k of those views, caused the drop in viewership between the first and second episodes of the Dr. Phil show. Read that again. A post with roughly 100k views cost Dr. Phil 400k viewers. Clearly, Dr. Phil’s doctorate isn’t in mathematics. Nor is it in intellectual property law, I’m afraid, as most people would have to conclude that using the short clips to report on the story, with additional commentary, would very likely fall under fair use.
So, there you have the bad math part. But I promised you irony, didn’t I? For that, we’ll return to the lawsuit, which references Deadspin’s ex-editor, AJ Daulerio’s joking claim about how people refer to the site as a “content remora” and then the lawsuit helpfully goes on to describe exactly what that is.
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.
Got it? The lawsuit is claiming that Deadspin is leeching off of Dr. Phil, providing nothing to them but benefiting from Dr. Phil’s laborious undertakings. So why is this ironic? Well, because Deadspin broke the damned T’eo story to begin with. No Deadspin, no Dr. Phil shows with higher-than-average ratings. The remora reference would only be apt if remoras left their host sharks regularly to order those sharks Chinese takeout and deliver said takeout personally. And, of course, Daulerio’s use of the term, in context, shows that he was actually mocking those — like Dr. Phil — who falsely imply that Gawker and its sites like Deadspin only leech off of someone else’s content. The whole point of Daulerio’s statement was to show that they’re not, in fact, leeching, and yet Dr. Phil’s lawsuit attempts to flip that around.
So take your own advice and get real, Dr. Phil. This was a case of fair use and your piss-poor math is as laughable as it gets. You should be thanking Deadspin for the story in the first place, not slinging mud and lawsuits in their direction.