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Is Christine O'Donnell Trying to Steal a Copyrighted Show About the Tea Party?


(Following the posting of this story, Christine O'Donnell graciously consented to addressing the issues raised in the story. We have added an update below.)

Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party candidate who rocketed to national fame during her 2010 run for Joe Biden's open Senate seat in Delaware, is back in the news again. This time she stands accused of trying to steal a copyrighted and trademarked television show.

Just over one month ago TheBlaze reported on a concept for a reality TV show called "Occupy vs. The Tea Party."

As we told you in that previous story, think of it as “The Apprentice” meets “Survivor” with a dash of “Big Brother” tossed in for good measure. “Occupy VS. Tea Party” is the brainchild of producer/author/musician Gordon G.G. Gebert.  After our initial story ran on July 16th, Gebert managed to secure funding to produce the pilot and work has actually started on the show.

But last week, a story broke that the former U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell allegedly sold a version of Gerbert's show to Al Gore's Current TV.

O'Donnell is currently on a media tour promoting her appearance at the "Troublemaker Fest" -- an event scheduled to coincide with the GOP convention in Tampa, and billed as "Empowering Young Patriots To Stop Barack Obama's Second Term." The biggest piece of news in O'Donnell's press releases and web postings was that she would be co-hosting (along with Current TV's "Young Turks") a "Tea Party vs Occupy Wall Street Debate." ABC News, Yahoo News, Sinclair and several national outlets picked up the story reporting that O'Donnell was "headlining" the event.

There was just one small problem here. Christine O'Donnell does not have the rights to the concept or the name. Sinclair News reports:

Christine O’Donnell was told in a conference call Thursday evening she could not use the Tea Party vs Occupy or the Occupy vs Tea Party name because both are trademarked and copy righted by Gordon G.G. Gebert, creator of the reality TV Show of the same name.

Gebert's concept has been known to many in the TV industry for almost a year. He has been working on the development, casting, and funding of the show since last November. (He even made an effort to get the show on GBTV.)

Prior to last week, Mr. Gebert and people associated with Troublemaker Fest had discussions about Gordon bringing a version of his TV show to the stage in Tampa. According to an interview with TheBlaze, Gerbert stated that he agreed to produce a stage version of this TV show with the following conditions:

  • Chuck Woolery would host the debate (Woolery nor his people were contacted by O'Donnell or Current TV - Gebert secured this)
  • Gebert would produce and record the show.
  • All video from the debate would belong to his production company and be included in the pilot

On Tuesday of last week, Mr. Gebert says that he received a phone call from someone involved with the event. That conversation hinted that there were some problems developing.

Thursday evening, Gebert was alerted to a conference call about the scheduled "Occupy vs. Tea Party" event. Gordon reports that he dialed into the call but his presence on the call was questioned by one of the seven people on the line. When it was said by one person that "Gordon is bringing Chuck Woolery" -- Gebert corrected them all stating that he owned the show, copyrighted the concept and also had trademarked it.

The fact that a trademark and copyright exist did not seem to bother Christine O'Donnell. More from the Sinclair News story:

During the Thursday conference call O’Donnell was attempting to reach a broadcasting deal with The Young Turks while representing that she was the creator and owner of the trademark. Despite repeatedly being told by the Trademark & Copyright owner she could not use his brand in her Tampa event, O’Donnell decided she wanted to take her chances in litigation and told Gebert, “sue me.”

But wait. There is more to this story.

Apparently, Christine O'Donnell is also telling people that game show hosting legend Chuck Woolery will also be appearing as part of her event. He is not. Chuck Woolery is slated to host Gordon Gebert's "Occupy vs The Tea Party" and has never been contacted by O'Donnell's people or asked to be involved with Ms. O'Donnell's event in Tampa (except by Gebert).

Mr. Gebert's reaction to Ms. O'Donnell's actions? His lawyers sent her people a "cease and desist' notice via email.

Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 10:41 PM

Subject: Cease and desist any and all branding, titling, presentation, television – Chuck Woolery will not be hosting your show

Cease and desist any and all branding, titling, presentation, internet, television broadcast of “Occupy vs. Tea Party” or “Tea Party vs. Occupy”

Cease and desist any advertising, promotion, representation, attachment of Chuck Woolery to your event.

Chuck Woolery will not be hosting any illegal presentation, debate, or facsimile of “Occupy vs. Tea Party”

Thank you,

Gordon G.G. Gebert

That email has reportedly been received by O'Donnell's representative, and yet the debate is still posted on the calendar on Troublemaker's website.

Monday we kick off our week of events with the first national Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street Debate.

This morning's early phone call with Gordon Gebert confirmed the timeline and the events. He hopes that a court will issue an injunction preventing O'Donnell, Current TV, and Troublemaker Fest from poaching his show in Tampa.

This morning, O'Donnell is slated to appear on CNN with Soledad O'Brien. She promoted the appearance via Twitter and her website ChristinePAC.

During the 8am ET hour, Ms. O'Donnell did appear on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien" and addressed the allegations.

As mentioned above, Christine O'Donnell takes strong exception to some of the points made in this article. We talked at length this morning. Ms. O'Donnell offers answers to follow-up questions.

The Blaze: You said that you feel "blind-sided" by the liberal media... I don't know how you can say that when you are in bed with Current TV, Cenk Ugyur and The Young Turks.

Christine O'Donnell: You see, the thing is... we're not in bed with Current TV, we have not sold a thing to Current TV. I have never spoken to Current TV.

That statement from Ms. O'Donnell is curious considering what appears on her website for the event:

Additionally, the very first line of the online release promoting it states:

Tampa, FL—The Young Turks, a political commentary program on Current TV, has partnered with Christine O’Donnell and Troublemaker Media to produce the line-up for the first ever national Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street debate.

A press representative from Current TV also states that the television network has no relationship with this event. Although it was stated that a possible affiliation might exist with an online version of The Young Turks.

There was also considerable coverage of last Tuesday's news that Ms. O'Donnell and Chuck Woolery would be both be appearing at the event in Tampa. Ms. O'Donnell was listed as a "headliner" with Chuck Woolery as host of the "Occupy vs. Tea Party" debate.

During our conversation, Christine O'Donnell said that it was unlikely that Chuck Woolery would be appearing at the event. Which begs the question: Why was a press release sent out last week highlighting his involvement?

Ms. O'Donnell did repeatedly state that she had not spoken with Gordon Gebert prior to his appearance on the Thursday night conference call. And that she had no prior knowledge of the show he created, copyrighted and has trademarked. And based on conversations with many folks, that appears to be true.

Can, as some have suggested, both sides of this kerfuffle possibly work together and create a stage version of Mr. Gebert's show? It might offer that rare "win-win" opportunity.

Full Disclosure: After learning about the original Occupy vs. Wall Street project on Kickstarter, the author was so intrigued he donated $100 to the pilot funding.

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