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Apple charged in defamation suit against BET

iTunes operator Apple Inc. is charged as an accomplice in a new defamation lawsuit filed against Viacom and sibling television network BET for mislabeling two Texas residents as "murderers" on the hit television series "American Gangster."

The 13-page suit, filed Wednesday in the United States District Court Southern District of Texas, alleges that a photo of convicted Chicago gang leader Larry Hoover, which also contained Houston residents James Prince and Thomas Randle, has aired repeatedly in conjunction with the BET series alongside an audio caption that dubs the three as killers.

"During the advertisement program, a photograph of Mr. Prince and Mr. Randle is shown with Mr. Larry Hoover, without their permission, with the narrator stating they were "MURDERERS," the claim states. "Neither Mr. Prince nor Mr. Randle has ever been convicted of any felony offenses, let alone murder."

In the episode of "American Gangster" entitled "Larry Hoover and the Gangster Disciples" which aired on October 10, 2007, the photo was shown at least three more times, the suit alleges. Since then, that episode has made its way to the iTunes Store for digital sale, which is where Apple factors into the mix.

"Such patently false, inflammatory and defamatory publications have materially and substantially harmed the reputation of my clients personally and in the business area in which they operate," wrote Warren M Fitzgerald, Jr, attorney for the two Houston men.

Prince and Randle attest that they contacted BET and parent company Viacom ahead of the episode's commercial broadcast to inform them that segment contained false and defamatory information and to request that their likeliness be removed from the show. The networks reportedly refused.

The two men are now seeking punitive damages in the amount to be determined at trial, a preliminary injunction barring the rebroadcast or sale of the episode during the pendency of the lawsuit, and a permanent injunction and restraining order barring any future rebroadcast or sale by Viacom, BET and Apple.