Former Dr. Phil producer faces suit in Texarkana federal court

Dr Phil McGraw (By Angela George, Creative Commons)
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A former producer of the Dr. Phil Show is accused of stealing video of the show’s star, in a federal copyright infringement lawsuit filed Thursday in Texarkana, Texas.

The suit, filed on behalf of Peteski Productions Inc., the company which owns the rights to the Dr. Phil Show, accuses Leah Rothman and John or Jane Doe of copying nine seconds of video of psychologist Phil McGraw speaking to a production crew on board an airplane in 2014. The suit alleges Rothman’s conduct amounts to copyright infringement.

“The video footage was aken on board a private plane. In th video, McGraw is speaking with a production team of the Dr. Phil Show and is preparing to do a take for an episode of the Dr. Phil Show,” the complaint states. “McGraw is the only person visible on the video.”

According to Peteski’s complaint, Rothman and her unidentified accomplice copied the video clip for nefarious purposes.

“In 2015, without authorization, Rothman, along with Doe, accessed, for their personal use, a database that contains various video files relating to the Dr. Phil Show,” the complaint alleges. “Without Peteski’s knowledge, Rothman, with assistance from Doe, created a video record of the video using her iPhone.”

The complaint alleges Rothman stored a copy of the video on her personal computer and that she and “Doe” acted willfully and in bad faith.

“Defendant’s procurement of the video and defendants’ infringing activities were malicious,” the complaint states. “Based on the infringing conduct, the video was targeted for theft, as defendants copied and recorded only nine seconds out of thousands of hours of the Dr. Phil Show video footage stored in the Dr. Phil Show database. Defendants’ motive in infringing Peteski’s copyrights was to smear plaintiff and extort money from plaintiff.”

Peteski’s complaint was filed Thursday in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas by George McWilliams of the George McWilliams law firm and by Chip Babcock and David Folsom of Jackson Walker law firm.

In January 2016 Rothman sued Peteski and McGraw in a California state court for claims including false imprisonment stemming from a March 11, 2015, meeting concerning a media leak. Rothman claims she and about 300 other Dr. Phil Show employees were summoned to the meeting on a day when some were not scheduled to work. Rothman alleges the doors to the room were locked and that security guards were on hand as McGraw profanely addressed the group about the leak.

McGraw has denied any wrongdoing in the California case.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Rodney Gilstrap has been assigned to oversee the federal court case Peteski filed in Texarkana on Thursday. Peteski is asking for actual damages “plus the amount of profits” Rothman and her unidentified accomplice have gained from the stolen video clip. Peteski wants all copies of the video returned and wants Rothman to divulge the identities of anyone who helped her allegedly infringe on Peteski’s copyright. The complaint asks for an injunction which would bar the defendants from continued copyright infringement including reproducing the video or distributing it.

Rothman has not filed a response to Peteski’s complaint.

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