Conservative firebrand Rush Limbaugh has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against publisher HarperCollins and fellow right-wing host Sean Hannity for plagiarism and intellectual copyright infringement.
The outspoken talk radio host is seeking $3.5 million from both Hannity and HarperCollins, whose former division ReganBooks published Hannity’s books.
The lawsuit singles Hannity out for ripping Limbaugh off and “liberally plagiarizing large sections of Limbaugh’s best-selling books for his own books and gaining profit and professional advancement as a result,” according to court documents filed today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The lawsuit claims large sections of Hannity’s books, “Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism” and “Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism” – published respectively in 2002 and 2004 – ripped off large sections of Limbaugh’s bestselling books, “The Way Things Out to Be” and “See, I Told You So,” which were published a decade earlier.
"If you read Mr. Hannity's books, it feels like you're reading Mr. Limbaugh's books word for word," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also accuses HarperCollins of “enabling other conservative authors under its contract to infringe and steal from Limbaugh’s own work without credit, attribution and/or payment.”
Limbaugh and his attorney, Kevin Lomax, both declined to comment on the lawsuit, claiming there is “a deep liberal media bias against (Limbaugh).”
When reached by phone, Hannity also declined to comment on the lawsuit, claiming there was a “deep liberal media bias” against him.
However, Hannity’s attorney Maurice Levy said Hannity and other conservative authors typically cover the exact same themes as Limbaugh in all of their books.
“The only thing Hannity copied from Limbaugh was to use the same method for writing his books, which is to talk into a tape recorder and then have them transcribed by someone else,” he said.
Jackie Chiles, an attorney representing HarperCollins, dismissed the lawsuit as “hypocritical, lewd, lascivious, salacious, outrageous!”
“This is a public humiliation. Everyone knows that Rush Limbaugh was a morning zoo DJ before he became this darling of the right,” Chiles said. “If anybody should be filing a lawsuit, it’s (radio host) Bob Grant against Limbaugh.”
Jack McCoy, a professor of law at Columbia University, said if Limbaugh prevails in his lawsuit, it could send a warning to other political pundits and hosts who have imitated Limbaugh's bombastic style for ratings.
“I’m surprised this is the first lawsuit that’s been filed,” he said. “These books all seem the same to me. I just assumed they were the same book, just given a different title and author.”
The Way Things Could Be
Limbaugh declined to discuss the details of his lawsuit on his afternoon radio show when a caller brought it up, according to a transcript posted on his website.
However, the call prompted Limbaugh to launch a 15-minute tirade against “parasites.” He admitted that depending on the success of this lawsuit, more lawsuits may be on the way.
“This is just the beginning,” he said. “For too long, my fellow so-called ‘conservatives’ have been riding my coattails, copying me, stealing my material and getting rich off of my ideas.
“I feel like David Letterman in a tiny room surrounded by Jay Lenos. I was bashing the goddamn Clintons long before any of these parasites crawled out of the woodwork. Obama is scared of me and only me!
“Enough is enough. All these Hannitys, Larsons, Coulters, Becks, O’Reillys, Levins, Boortzes, Savages and Ingrahams are gonna pay.”
Limbaugh has built his radio career on being confrontational and making controversial statements – as have many of his fellow television and radio hosts.
Limbaugh attracted controversy earlier this year after he refused to leave a Mexican restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., after a confrontation with the owner.