Oprah Winfrey is being sued for allegedly stealing the idea for her new show "Oprah's Big Give" from a Boston mom, the New York Daily News reports.
Darlene Tracy claims that she came up with the concept for a reality TV show called "The Philanthropist" in 2005, in which contestants are challenged to help the needy.
Tracy says she spoke to Winfrey's executive producer Ellen Rakieten and that Rakieten and another producer Jennifer Thorton wrote back to her asking for more details on her idea only to be told Harpo Productions — Winfrey's company — was not interested.
Almost one year later, in November 2006, Oprah announced the launch of her new show titled "Big Give," in which audience members are given money to help their communities, the Daily News reports.
That's when Tracy filed a complaint in Boston's U.S. District Court to stop "Big Give" from airing, but it was quickly shot down by Judge Rya Zobel, who dismissed it. She then hired a lawyer and filed an appeal documenting her contact with Winfrey's Harpo Productions that sets forth similarities between "The Philanthropist" and "Big Give," The Daily News writes.
While a spokeswoman for Winfrey says she's "confident that the Court of Appeals will agree that Tracy has no claim," a close source to Tracy says Oprah's side has admitted that "they didn't have a philanthropy show in development until they got Darlene's pitch. Stealing a show about altruism is more than a little ironic."
Later Wednesday, Chip Babcock, counsel to Harpo Productions, issued a statement saying the Daily News failed to report the "Big Give" story accurately.
"First, while there was a lawsuit filed by Darlene Tracy alleging that she created the concept for the current show known as 'Oprah’s Big Give,' that lawsuit against Harpo and ABC was dismissed on the merits by the U.S. District Court in Boston on March 14, 2007. The Court rejected all of Ms. Tracy’s claims. The Court also dismissed Oprah Winfrey as a defendant because it determined the Court had no jurisdiction over her.
"Further, the New York Daily News article alleged that the plaintiff has since hired a lawyer and filed an appeal. In fact, Ms. Tracy is pursuing an appeal to the Federal Appellate Court on her own, without being represented by counsel, after her lawyer withdrew from the case."