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August 03, 2009

Hey Oprah, stop stealing my life

Celebrityhood is a litigation magnet. Just ask TV maven Oprah, whose last name Suits & Sentences does not find it necessary to mention. (It is, in fact, Suits & Sentences' fervent wish to become so well known and beloved that, like Oprah, one name in the future will suffice for identification purposes. "Suits" will do.)

A quick cruise through PACER finds Oprah a party to at least 61 civil lawsuits. A good number, one can presume, are just about as substantial as the suit she won Friday, in a brief ruling by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth.

In a brisk two pages, Judge Lamberth dismissed a copyright infringement case brought by a resident of the Bronx named Damon Lloyd Goffe. The particulars of this lawsuit are a little hard to trace, but their flavor may be established by a separate and equally unsuccessful lawsuit Mr. Goffe filed last year in New York, in which he claimed that:

"Oprah Winfrey and Harpo Inc. did delebrately and willfully infringe on my property...there are several witness with intimate knowledge of the crime."

In a similar vein, Mr. Goffe filed a suit against NBC and actor Will Smith. In that suit, filed last month in Washington, D.C., Mr. Goffe declared:

"My life is been recorded and broadcasted since 2003 via satellite/cable network Bravo/Bravo 2, whose parent company is NBC/Universal, as well as the internet under the title 'the will smith show' and previously 'real world.'"

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan advised Mr. Goffe that he was preparing to dismiss the Will Smith lawsuit as well.


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Here's another cautionary tale about journalism in the internet age. I've recently seen a rash of blog posts and online news factoids like this one about a $1.2 trillion dollar lawsuit filed against Oprah Winfrey by a poet named Damon... [Read More]


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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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