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Author of ‘Martha Speaks’ children's books sues WGBH for slice of donations

“Martha Speaks” author Susan Meddaugh (left) with WGBH staff in 2008. Meddaugh wrote the first book, which follows the adventures of a lovable dog, in 1991.
“Martha Speaks” author Susan Meddaugh (left) with WGBH staff in 2008. Meddaugh wrote the first book, which follows the adventures of a lovable dog, in 1991.Mark Wilson/Globe Staff/File 2008

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The popular children’s public television series “Martha Speaks” follows the adventures of a lovable talking dog who learns new words. In a contentious new episode taking place off-screen, the latest addition to Martha’s vocabulary is “lawsuit.”

Author and illustrator Susan Meddaugh, whose books inspired the TV show, is suing WGBH for a cut of the more than $20 million in donations that the nonprofit PBS affiliate receives from its audience each year. Because WGBH uses “Martha Speaks” to solicit contributions, the station owes Meddaugh some of that money, the writer’s legal team argued in a complaint filed in Middlesex Superior Court.

Meddaugh also claims she was cheated out of royalties by the kind of deceptive accounting practices usually associated with infamous Hollywood bookkeeping.

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