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The $ 1.2 trillion case: Oprah wins, the media loses

Yesterday Perez Hilton and the news agency WENN both reported that talk show queen Oprah Winfrey was sued by an unknown author named Damon Lloyd Goffe.

Mr. Goffe claims that Oprah stole material from him and published it under the name “Pieces of My Soul”. According to Goffe Oprah sold 650 million copies of the book for $20 a time, by which he concludes that he is owed $1.2 trillion.

But Perez Hilton and WENN weren’t the first to break the news: On Wednesday the “National Enquirer” reported about the case, using the prefix “Bombshell ENQUIRER.com WORLD EXCLUSIVE”.

Even though neither the “National Enquirer” nor Perez Hilton qualify as reliable sources, there is nothing wrong about the fact that Oprah got sued by Mr. Goffe. But there are a few striking details in his plaint and the reports about it.

The obvious one: If you multiply 650 million by 20, you end up with 13 billion. At least examiner.com realized this part.

The almost obvious one: 650 million copies?! There are only few books which sold more than 500 million copies, three in fact: The Bible, “Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong” by Mao Zedong and the Qur’an.

The strange one: The Internet holds no evidence about a book called “Pieces of My Soul” by Oprah Winfrey. Neither on oprah.com nor anywhere else. In fact, there’s literally no mention of the alleged bestseller before the Goffe v. Winfrey case got public.

And by the way: It looks like this case first got public on Monday when legal affairs blogger Michael Doyle wrote that the copyright infringement case had already been dismissed by Judge Lamberth. You can actually download the Memorandum Opinion as a PDF file.

To sum it up: The book doesn’t exist, the claims are ridiculous, and the case is already dismissed.

Damon Lloyd Goffe had already sued Oprah Winfrey in vain last year, demanding only $ 9.9 million back then. As Mr. Doyle points out in his blog, Mr. Goffe might be a bit … let’s say: special. In similar cases the plaintiff had claimed things like:

“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.'”

Now Mr. Goffe can truthfully declare that he was the subject of intense media coverage, for instance at the “Cleveland Leader”, msn.com, starpulse.com, NBC Chicago and the “Times of India”.

This article is based on the research I did for another article at BILDblog.de.