Lawsuit Claims Stolen Ideas Used for Oprah Winfrey Network

The plaintiff alleges her pitch on "experiential programming" was taken by Discovery Communications without permission and compensation.
Oprah Winfrey

From the department of possibilities comes Care Free TV, an idea that a Florida woman named Susan Kasi had for network that would offer therapeutic programming by broadcasting guided imagery of inspiring places, meditation, music, art and philosophy.

Kasi has seen the Oprah Winfrey Network and believes it sounds too cathartic. In a new lawsuit filed in Florida by Kasi's company, Sunset Concepts, she claims her idea for "experiential programming" was stolen in the creation of the Oprah Winfrey Network.

The defendant in the case is Discovery Communications, which jointly operates OWN with Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions. This isn't the first time that Discovery has been sued for allegedly misappropriating an idea. Such claims are common in Hollywood. But this one represents a rare instance where a plaintiff is attempting to claim ownership over a TV programming philosophy.

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According to the complaint, Kasi developed the idea for Care Free TV in 2003. She says she originally thought it would be a "perfect fit" for Oprah and contacted Harpo and Oxygen Network, of which Oprah was a part owner at the time. Neither was interested.

The basis of a lawsuit is pinned to what happened a few years thereafter, when continuing her search for a partner, Kasi allegedly engaged in discussions with an executive vice president at Discovery responsible for developing new media.

Supposedly, the parties discussed certain provisions of a confidentiality agreement, and Discovery agreed to insert a provision of a "contract" that stipulated, "[D]iscovery will not use any of the company's Confidential Information without the prior written consent of and the payment of compensation to Company."

But a week later, Discovery informed Kasi that they were passing on her proposal, says the lawsuit.

The complaint then details Kasi's further conversations with executives at Discovery and ultimately, of course, those went nowhere.

So now Kasi has seen OWN and isn't exactly care free about what she's seen. In a section of the complaint headlined, "A String of Coincidences," the plaintiff says that the executive that was pitched on Care Free then worked on developing OWN, and that the new network "began airing programming that resembled what Kasi had proposed."

The lawsuit points to catchphrases that OWN has used ("Your place for positive programming"), Oprah's description of having a network "where people would respond to the idea of something meaningful and positive in their lives," the repeated utilization of "guided imagery and meditation" and "other core elements" like "respecting viewers and promoting conscious living."

Only slightly more specifics are detailed in regards to OWN's programming including "Super Soul Sunday," "Breathing Space" vignettes and "Good News Breaks." The plaintiff even seems to take credit for "My Favorite Things."

Sunset Concepts, represented by attorney Jonathan Pollard, is suing for breach of contract, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, and misappropriation of ideas. Here's the full complaint.

Discovery took time from their daily mediation routine to offer this statement: "This lawsuit is completely without merit and we look forward to its resolution in court." 

Twitter: @eriqgardner