Publisher, Sportswriter Sue Over Defamatory Web Story

By: E&P Staff

The Oklahoma Publishing Company and one of its sportswriters have sued a Nebraska football fan who has admitted to publishing a false Internet story about two University of Oklahoma quarterbacks.

The company, which publishes The Oklahoman newspaper and its companion Web site NewsOK.com, and sportswriter Jake Trotter filed the suit Monday in a federal court in Oklahoma City. The 10-count civil suit accuses James W. Conradt of libel, copyright violations, and trademark infringement.

According to the suit, Conradt published a “defamatory” article on the Web July 9th that stated Oklahoma quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Landry Jones had been arrested for intent to distribute cocaine. Conradt allegedly linked to the article on his personal Web site, www.darthhusker.net, as well as on an online sports message board. According to the lawsuit, Conradt used Trotter’s byline and various Oklahoma Publishing Company trademarks in the fake article to give it the appearance of legitimacy. In doing so, the lawsuit alleges, Conradt damaged Trotter’s reputation and occupation.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages, as well as an order that Conradt not misuse OPUBCO tademarks in the future, that he provide a written report detailng how he intends to honor that order, and publish “corrective advertising” to compensate for the alleged harm he caused.

In an interview with the Oklahoman last week, Conradt, a 36-year-old Nebraska fan who works as a computer services manager in the IT department at the University of Texas, acknowledged his responsibility for the hoax. “I want to express my deepest apologies to the families,” Conradt told the paper last Wednesday. “I didn’t want to hurt anyone.”

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