Former President Donald Trump has filed a $49 million lawsuit against Bob Woodward, alleging that the journalist did not get his permission to release recordings of interviews.
The lawsuit (pdf) was filed in the Pensacola division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Jan. 30 and names Washington Post reporter Woodward, his publisher Simon & Schuster, and its parent company, Paramount Global, as defendants.
Specifically, lawyers for Trump accuse Woodward of “systematic usurpation, manipulation, and exploitation” of audio recordings of Trump that were gathered in connection with a series of interviews conducted by the journalist between December 2019 and August 2020.
The lawsuit cites an excerpt from Woodward’s official website that reads: “The media today probably does not dig deeply enough or spend sufficient time on stories. The best way to ensure that sources will be open and honest is to treat them fairly.”
“When it came to treating President Trump fairly, Mr. Woodward talked the talk, but he failed to walk the walk,” lawyers for Trump wrote in the lawsuit.
Woodward Violated Trump’s Copyright, Lawyers Say
According to lawyers for Trump, the audio was protected material and subject to various limitations on use and distribution “as a matter of copyright, license, contract, basic principles of the publishing industry, and core values of fairness and consent.”
Trump claims in the lawsuit that he consented to be recorded for a series of interviews that were conducted at the White House and his home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, as well as over the phone, but only for a book Woodward was working on.
That book, titled “Rage,” was published in September 2021.
However, the eight-hours worth of recordings were later released in October last year as an audiobook titled “The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward’s Twenty Interviews with President Donald Trump.”
This, lawyers for Trump say, means that Woodward and Simon & Schuster violated his copyright.
“Woodward has acted in concert with (i) SSI, a major publishing company which brings the work of many authors, including Woodward, to hundreds of countries and territories, and (ii) SSI’s parent company, Paramount. Individually and collectively, these entities have systematically, blatantly, and unlawfully usurped President Trump’s copyright interests, his contractual rights, and the rights he holds as an interviewee,” the lawsuit states.
Woodward Says Recordings Were Done ‘Voluntarily’
Additionally, lawyers for Trump argue that prior to filing the lawsuit, Trump and his counsel had confronted Woodward and the other defendants about their alleged wrongdoing but that they “brazenly refused to recognize President Trump’s copyright and contractual rights.”
“Instead, they proffered various flawed and irrelevant justifications which are unavailing and devoid of any legal merit,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.
“Rather than cease their infringement, or even account to President Trump, the Defendants have doubled down; in an avaricious attempt to reap more benefits from their ongoing violation of President Trump’s rights, Defendants have converted the audio not only into an audiobook but also into derivative works, including a CD, paperback, and e-book—again, all at the expense of President Trump and without accounting to him.”
The $49 million figure is based on an estimate that the audiobook, priced at $24.99, sold more than 2 million copies, lawyers say.
Woodward previously told CNN in October last year that the recordings “were done voluntarily” and it was “all on the record.”
“I had used some of it before. So he’s president and … so he’s out there. And this is out there to the tenth power,” Woodward said.
In an emailed statement to The Epoch Times, his publisher Simon & Schuster said Trump’s lawsuit has no merit and vowed to defend his release of the recordings.
“All these interviews were on the record and recorded with President Trump’s knowledge and agreement,” the statement said. “Moreover, it is in the public interest to have this historical record in Trump’s own words. We are confident that the facts and the law are in our favour.”
The Epoch Times has contacted Woodward and Paramount Global for comment.