Donald Trump Sues Bob Woodward Over His Interview Recording: Is It a Copyright Infringement?

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Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, experienced a copyright dispute with a US investigative journalist, Robert Upshur Woodward.

It started in 2016-2020 when Woodward interviewed Trump in person and by telephone. Then he recorded the results of these conversations and collected them to make an audiobook entitled “The Trump Tapes.”

The audiobook contains 20 interview recordings between Woodward and Trump, consisting of 19 recordings taken in 2019-2020 and 1 recorded in 2016. The audiobook has sold over 2 million copies for $24.99 apiece.

However, Trump later sued and stated that he objected to Woodward’s publication and commercialization of the recording.

Trump and his lawyers then sued Woodward, a legend who solved the Watergate scandal during the campaign for President Nixon. Trump also sued Paramount Global (the company that produced the audiobook) for copyright infringement.

But contrary to Trump’s statement, Woodward stated that Trump had permitted him to make the project from the start. And Woodward stated that he is not afraid of Trump’s lawsuit because he thinks Trump has told him that it is in the public’s interest to have these historical records. Woodward believes that the facts and laws will support his actions’ truth.

Trump’s lawsuits are 13 pages long and were filed in federal court in Pensacola, Florida. Its contents stated that it “repeatedly stated to Woodward, in the presence of others, that he agreed to be recorded for the sole purpose of allowing Woodward to write a book.”

Trump stated that he only permitted Woodward to make it into a book, not for publication and not for commercial purposes. He assumed that Woodward only wanted to exploit and use his voice.

The lawsuit accused the three defendants of unjust enrichment, singling out the authors for alleged breach of contract and “implied agreement of good faith and fair dealing.”

Fair Dealing Principal in Copyright Law

Fair dealing is a user’s right in copyright law permitting use of, or “dealing” with, a copyright protected work without permission or payment of copyright royalties.

The fair dealing exception in the Copyright act allows you to use other people’s copyright protected material for the purpose of research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review or news reporting, provided that what you do with the work is ‘fair’.

So, how do Woodward’s actions relate to copyright infringement? Is it true that Trump owns the copyright of his interview recordings?

In this case, several conflicting arguments were related to granting permits (licenses) between the two disputing parties.

The preventive thing that should be done by both parties is to make a written consent. With written consent, they can be able to use it as evidence in the court. Written consent will have stronger legal force then unwritten consent.

However, in this case, both Trump or Woodward cannot be said as the creator of the audiobook. It is because copyright law stipulates that a person can only be called as a creator if he has materialized an idea into a tangible form of creation.

Woodward made the creation into reality by using the ideas conveyed by Trump. So, the person who can be recognized as creator are both of them. It’s because they contribute to realizing the audiobook. So, those who can be recognized as the creators of the audiobook are Trump and also Woodward.

From this case, we can see the importance of written consent to provide boundaries of rights and obligations between the parties in making a creation. It aims to avoid disputes that might occur in the future. Even if there is a dispute later, written consent can be strong evidence in court.

This copyright infringement case was caused by violating the terms of the license consent. This case is not the first time it has happened. In making clause consent, there may be discrepancies between what is written in the agreement and its implementation in practice. Therefore, we at Am Badar & Am Badar always provide quality legal services to prevent problems like this under our vision as “The Most Reliable and Comprehensive Intellectual Property Law Firm in the world.”

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