Lawsuit alleges copyright infringement in ‘To the Contrary’ segment

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A publicist and producer are suing PBS and a surrogacy firm for copyright infringement over a piece that aired on To the Contrary.

The dispute centers on content in a May 2013 show segment about international surrogacy. The weekly news-analysis show is hosted by an all-female panel.

According to the lawsuit, Crystal Travis, owner of World of Surrogacy in Laurel, Md., initially met publicist Wendy Wheaton and cameraman Tommy Phipps Sr., both of Sherman Oaks, Calif., in December 2012. Travis’s firm provides consulting services for clients interested in international surrogacy. In January 2013, Travis hired Wheaton to promote the business and conduct media outreach.

The next month, the lawsuit says, Travis told Wheaton and Phipps that she was traveling to India “to reconnect with her surrogacy contacts there.” Travis suggested the two accompany her; Wheaton and Phipps agreed and proposed a documentary on the trip.

The three spent a week in India, with Wheaton and Phipps shooting “hundreds of individual videos and photographs,” the complaint says. Travis asked Wheaton and Phipps to give her that content on a hard drive, which they did.

The lawsuit alleges that Travis gave the footage to To the Contrary “as her own.”

The segment uses “at least 17 instances” of copyrighted videos or photographs. Wheaton and Phipps are asking for statutory damages of $2.55 million, or $150,000 per infringement.

PBS does not comment on lawsuits, a spokesperson told Current. A To the Contrary executive has also declined comment.