Gawker Media, you've been served. Phil McGraw, a.k.a. TV's Dr. Phil, is suing sports website Deadspin and its parent company, Gawker, for copyright infringement involving footage from his interview with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man behind the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax. According to legal papers filed Monday, May 6, in Texarcana, Tex., and acquired by The Hollywood Reporter, McGraw's Peteski Productions claims that the site caused his ratings to drop by posting parts of the interview online before it had aired in the majority of Dr. Phil markets.
Part one of the two-part interview, which aired over two episodes of Dr. Phil on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, ended with a cliffhanger regarding Tuiasosopo's impersonation of Lennay Kekua, Te'o's phantom girlfriend. The second part of the interview featured him actually speaking in the voice he used to reportedly dupe the football star.
Peteski Productions' suit alleges that Deadspin — which broke the Te'o hoax in January — "stole" the copyrighted material from part two and posted it online "hours before the Dr. Phil Show aired to over 98% of its viewers. Although the second show was expected to exceed the ratings number of the first show, in fact, the ratings declined substantially because the the result of the 'CLIFFHANGER' was no longer in doubt. It had been misappropriated by Deadspin."
The suit further claims that the plan to "steal" the material was "premeditated" by the company. "Gawker deliberately set out to get 'the jump' on the rest of the country and 'scoop' Dr. Phil with his own content," it reads. "They did not ask permission, they blatantly and knowingly infringed the copyright of the content owner and did so in a way that furthered their interest to the maximum and undercut the rightful owner of the protected material."