Righthaven’s New Target, Lowcountry912, is in Core First Amendment Territory

Yesterday, I posted about how regrettable it was that copyright thugster Righthaven has signed up a new client, the enormous MediaNews Group.

Now, let’s talk about the lawsuit itself. This new docket item landed on top of Lowcountry912′s Blog. Coming out of Summerville, South Carolina, the blog describes itself as the product of “a group of conservative Americans who want to do everything possible to keep America safe from its enemies within as well as without”.

A grassroots Tea Party affair, the blog makes a habit of reposting stories from the news media as it attempts to rally like-minded citizens to attend weekly meetings at an area church.

What Lowcountry912 is doing is core First Amendment stuff. It involves not just political speech, but it also implicates freedom of association, the Bill of Rights stepsister of freedom of expression.

Or, maybe a better way to put it is that freedom of association is the Park Place to freedom of expression’s Boardwalk. It’s a powerful combination for a plaintiff’s copyright claim to land on.

The post that got Lowcountry912 in trouble was a repost (now removed) of a September 23, 2010 column from Denver Post columnist Mike Rosen that was styled as an open letter to Tea Partyers.

Ironically, Rosen wrote: “While I’m not a card-carrying member of your movement, I enthusiastically support and applaud it. My activism in the war of ideas takes the form of a radio show and a newspaper column. Yours, at the grassroots level, has been invaluable this election year.”

Hmmm. That almost could be interpreted as implied permission to repost his column as part of a grassroots organizing attempt, especially when the column was put in the form of an open letter.

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2 Responses to “Righthaven’s New Target, Lowcountry912, is in Core First Amendment Territory”

  1. Steve Krantz says:

    “Almost could be interpreted as implied permission. . . ” is certainly a far stretch from what is written, and is more a tortured interpretation of the written word. Expressing one’s support for a cause does not imply permission to take a protected work. This is simply and obviously, as you have mentioned, a style choice for the work.
    Of course irony and humor seem to have demanded that Mr. Rosen dump on the very people for whom he espoused support in his letter; it appears Mr. Rosen’s open support demands a sum certain.

  2. ericejohnson says:

    Expressing one’s support for a cause, as you say, does not imply permission to use a copyrighted work. I agree. That’s why I qualified by saying it could “almost” be interpreted as permission of an “implied” sort. It would indeed be a stretch to argue that legally there was permission. But I don’t know that it’s such a stretch ethically.

    I could see the reposter thinking, “Here’s a guy who thinks like us and won’t mind at all if we borrow this as we go about doing what he’s encouraging us to do.” It would be a little naive for someone to think that, but not irrational.

    At any rate, Rosen apparently didn’t own the copyright to his own work – and that’s one of the hazards of authors letting go of copyright.