A production company owned by famed television psychologist Dr. Phil has filed suit in a Texarkana, Texas, federal court against Gawker Media alleging copyright infringement.

The suit accuses Gawker of airing portions of part two of Dr. Phil’s interview with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man believed to have perpetrated a hoax on Notre Dame football star and Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o.

Tuiasosopo created a fictitious female persona Te’o believed was his girlfriend.

The second part of Dr. Phil’s interview with Tuiasosopo was posted on  Deadspin, Gawker Media’s website devoted to sports news, hours before it was aired on channels carrying Dr. Phil’s show.

Episode one of Dr. Phil’s exclusive interview with Tuiasosopo ended with a cliffhanger.

 In the first episode, Dr. Phil pressed the self-confessed hoaxster to speak in the voice he used with Te’o while pretending to be a woman named Lennay Kekua. 

Whether  Tuiasosopo would do the voice was a cliffhanger many viewers would be sure to see resolved in the next episode.

Part two, which aired the following day with Tuiasosopo doing the Lennay Kekua voice, should have garnered huge ratings in excess of part one for the Dr. Phil Show, but didn’t.

Specifically, the suit accuses Gawker of stealing the copyrighted material and posting it on Deadspin hours before 98 percent of Dr. Phil’s viewers would see it. With the cliffhanger no longer in doubt, many viewers, presumably those who watched Tuiasosopo perform the voice on Deadspin, did not tune in to Dr. Phil as expected, according to the lawsuit.

Lower ratings means lower advertising revenue.

The complaint filed on behalf of Peteski Productions by lawyers Chip Babcock of Houston and George McWilliams of Texarkana seeks:

--actual damages at an amount to be proven at trial, 

--an injunction preventing Gawker from continuing to infringe on Peteski’s copyright of Dr. Phil Show episodes,

-- punitive damages meant to deter Gawker from engaging in such behavior

--and costs of lawsuit and attorney fees.

See Tuesday’s print and online editions of Texarkana Gazette for full coverage of this breaking story.

Published: 05/06/2013