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Oprah Winfrey dodges $100M copyright lawsuit

Oprah Winfrey cuddles Elvis the koala at the Hamilton Island Wildlife Park on Dec. 8, 2010, on Hamilton Island, Australia. She is in Australia with 302 audience members to tape episodes of the 25th and final season of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" from the Sydney Opera house.
Harpo Productions via Getty Images
Oprah Winfrey dodges $100M plagiarism lawsuit
Oprah Winfrey cuddles a koala bear
Getty/Harpo Productions

(CBS) - A federal judge has tossed out a Philadelphia writer's $100 million lawsuit, which alleged that Oprah Winfrey violated his copyright by reading on air without permission passages from a political booklet he penned.

According to Reuters, Charles Harris claimed that on the Feb. 16, 2009 episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Winfrey read questions that were the same as in his work "How America Elects Her Presidents."

The complaint stated that Harris had sent several copies of his booklet to the show in 2008, in hopes of gaining publicity during President Barack Obama's presidential campaign. He said he never heard back from the show.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Harris claimed that "the language and structure of the questions were exactly the same," adding that the use was "deliberate, willful, malicious, oppressive and without regard to [his] property rights."

Winfrey said that the only question she asked that was identical to one in the book was, "Which one our presidents weighed the most?" (Answer: Taft.) She also said that facts are not copyrightable, reports Reuters.

The judge agreed with Winfrey.

Winfrey filed a motion to dismiss and sought sanctions for a frivolous lawsuit. The judge ultimately declined to award Winfrey sanctions, saying Harris' suit was filed in good faith.

Reuters reports that Harris was seeking $150,000 for each "unlawful use," plus statutory damages.

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Oct. 28, 2010 - Oprah Sued for Plagiarism: Writer Charles Harris Says Star Read His Work on Talk Show