Woman sues Netflix for $170mn over ‘Baby Reindeer’ link

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Woman sues Netflix for $170mn over ‘Baby Reindeer’ link

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A woman identifying herself as the inspiration for a character in Netflix’s breakout series “Baby Reindeer” has filed a defamation lawsuit seeking $170mn from the streaming service.

Fiona Harvey, the plaintiff, alleges that the show has defamed her “at a magnitude and scale without precedent”.

The seven-episode series, about a relationship between a Scottish comedian and his stalker, was adapted from a one-man play written by Richard Gadd. The opening sequence of the show states that “this is a true story”, but many of the events portrayed, including the conviction of his stalker, are fictional.

In the series, a bartender named Donny Dunn, played by Gadd, shows an act of kindness to Martha, played by Jessica Gunning, a customer who develops an obsession with Dunn and begins to stalk him. The lawsuit alleges that Martha’s character is based on Harvey.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Los Angeles, alleges that the show told “brutal lies” about Harvey.

“The lies that defendants told about Harvey to over 50 million people worldwide include that Harvey is a twice convicted stalker who was sentenced to five years in prison, and that Harvey sexually assaulted Gadd,” the suit says.

The series has been a hit for Netflix, securing 10th place on the streaming service in its eighth week with 2.8mn views. It has also raised questions about so-called true-story television.

Gadd told Vanity Fair this year that “the broad strokes are very much true”, but names of characters and other details were changed. Fans of the show began searching for clues to identify the person behind Martha and determined that the character was based on Harvey, the magazine reported.

Netflix said it intended to “defend this matter vigorously and to stand by Richard Gadd’s right to tell his story”.

Baby Reindeer has been an unexpected hit for the streaming service, with executives admitting that the show was initially seen as having a more niche UK audience.

Instead, the show has found global success, dominating the most watched charts since it launched and winning at the Gotham TV awards in New York ahead of Emmy nominations this summer.

However, it has also generated controversy, with questions asked about the proximity of the show’s events to the lives of real people and the duty of care that broadcasters need to show to those featured in their programming.

The show was held up by Netflix co-chief executive Greg Peters among those that have helped support growth in the service over the past year at a presentation to the Enders conference this week.

He told the conference: “What I love about these series of films here is that there are so tremendously diverse and it is an amazing testament to the strength of British talent and storytelling.”

Peters said that Netflix would continue “to invest in our slate to grow, even as competitors are pulling back”, but would also broaden its service with live sports and events, games and, from next year, its first “Netflix house” — a type of themed venue featuring its TV brands.

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