Posts Tagged ‘Righthaven’

Wolverton on Net Neutrality

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

A column by my friend, Troy Wolverton, in the San Jose Mercury News, does an excellent job of explaining why the FCC’s new net neutrality rules aren’t cause for too much celebration.

He pithily explains the tech, the law, what’s at stake, and his opinion on it. In particular, he explains why it’s not okay to ensure net neutrality for wired connections but not for wireless connections.

WARNING TO BLB READERS: Be careful with that column! The San Jose Mercury News’ parent company, MediaNews Group, recently signed up with Righthaven, which then sued a blogger who reposted a column published in sister paper The Denver Post.

Righthaven, Images, and Drudge

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Righthaven is now suing over photos. And they’re taking on Drudge:

Two EFF Arguments Against Righthaven

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Joe Mullin at paidContent.org discusses two challenges brought by the EFF to Righthaven: that Righthaven shouldn’t be eligible for attorney’s fees, since it is a made-for-litigation business entity, and that Righthaven has no right to a turn-over of defendants’ domain names.

Righthaven Loses Early on Fair Use

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Thugster slayer Michael Nelson

Righthaven has lost a copyright infringement case because of a successful fair-use defense raised at the earliest procedural opportunity. The case is Righthaven LLC v. Realty One Group, Inc., 2:10-cv-1036-LRH-PAL.

In May 2010, Michael J. Nelson, a Las Vegas realtor, posted a portion of a Las Vegas Review Journal news story about a federal housing program on his blog, www.michaeljnelson.featuredblog.com. Righthaven took a copyright assignment from the Review Journal and pounced with a federal lawsuit. Happily for bloggers everywhere, instead of caving and forking over a low-dollar-value nuisance settlement, Nelson fought back and claimed that what he did was legally protected fair use.

The court agreed.

Of key importance for the court was that Nelson copied only eight sentences of a 30-sentence story, and the portion he copied was of a factual nature, as opposed to the portion which contained the reporter’s commentary.

U.S. District Judge Larry R. Hicks made short work of the case in a four-page order.

The court found that the first fair-use factor – purpose and character of the use – weighed against Nelson because he used his blog to promote his realty business. The second factor – nature of the work – weighed in Nelson’s favor because the portion of the news article copied was factual in nature. The third factor – amount and substantiality of the portion of the copyrighted work used – weighed in favor of Nelson, the court held, since he only copied eight sentences from a total of 30 in the news story. The fourth factor – effect on the potential market – weighed in Nelson’s favor as well. Regarding this factor, the court said:

The court finds that Nelson’s use of the copyrighted material is likely to have little to no effect on the market for the copyrighted news article. Nelson’s copied portion of the Work did not contain the author’s commentary. As such, his use does not satisfy a reader’s desire to view and read the article in its entirety the author’s original commentary and thereby does not dilute the market for the copyrighted work. Additionally, Nelson directed readers of his blog to the full text of the Work. Therefore, Nelson’s use supports a finding of fair use.

That line of analysis portends very well for other bloggers sued by Righthaven.

Now I’d like to see Nelson file a motion to get attorneys’ fees.

Nelson’s case seems like a great victory for free speech and fair use, but there’s a sad postscript: As of the time I am writing this post, Nelson has removed all the content from his blog.

So Righthaven has lost, but free expression has lost too.

Artie Can Now Meow a Sigh of Relief

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

A LAWSUIT THAT GAVE YOU PAWS: Artie, the Boston-based blogging cat, is the beneficiary of the confidential settlement of a federal lawsuit over the reposting of a newspaper article. Eight lives and counting.

The bizarre Artiegate lawsuit is over. (BLB: Purr-loined Story Gets Cat Blog Sued)

Some months ago the Las Vegas Review-Journal, through its legal henchman Righthaven, sued Allegra Wong of Boston over her blog, written from the perspective of her cat, Artie, which allegedly reposted an LVRJ story about a fire at a bird sanctuary.

After bashing Wong, who is, or was, unemployed, with a claim for $75,000, Righthaven has now agreed to dismiss the matter pursuant to  a confidential settlement, as reported by Steve Green in the Las Vegas Sun. (Look at the last few paragraphs of the story.)

I’m guessing that something like $20 bucks changed hands. Maybe zero. The writing was on the wall that the court was looking to give Righthaven the absolute minimum amount of damages possible.

It’s too bad that the settlement is confidential, because I can imagine it was, for Righthaven, embarrassingly low. But I’m happy for Ms. Wong and Artie.

Righthaven Has a Major Card to Play in Nevada Senate Race

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Sharron Angle logo and headshotSteve Green of the Las Vegas Sun reports that the Las-Vegas Review Journal, via its plaintiff stand-in, Righthaven, has sued the Nevada Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, Sharron Angle, for reproducing material from LVRJ newspaper stories on her website. Angle is running against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The lawsuit seeks $150,000 in damages plus the surrendering of the candidate’s domain name, sharronangle.com.

This shows you how far Righthaven and the Las Vegas Review-Journal have strayed from ordinary, civil behavior. This is a newspaper we are talking about, suing a candidate for office. And not just that, but suing that candidate because of the content of her communications to the public.

If Angle is forced to give up her domain name and cough up $150K in damages, that could easily be the difference in a closely contested election. (And apparently, the race is currently close.)

What happened to reporting on the story, not becoming part of it?

There is some indication that the Review-Journal, which previously used Righthaven to file a lawsuit against the Nevada Democratic Party, was bowing to pressure to be more non-partisan in its carpet-bombing litigation activities. Steve Friess, a blogger and columnist for a rival media outlet, the Las Vegas Weekly, used a series of screenshots on his blog to document Angle’s copious borrowing, egging the Review-Journal on. Friess doubled the dare by calling R-J publisher Sherman R. Frederick and chief editor Thomas Mitchell “full-throated Sharron Angle supporters and Ahab-like Harry Reid haters.”

“Righthaven must sue,” Friess wrote. “It took effort to find the cat blogger, but this one was on a major candidate’s site, there in plain sight. If they don’t sue Angle, they provide dozens of infringers with a clear example of the company’s inconsistency in defending its copyright.”

So now they’ve sued.

But in my view, filing the complaint really doesn’t prove much. The real question is how aggressively will Righthaven pursue the case?

The plaintiff-side lawyering in this case could actually make a big difference in how the Senate race plays out. As a tea-party candidate coming from outside the Republican mainstream, running against a powerful incumbent, Angle is already at a disadvantage in terms of cash and political allies. That makes her website and what money she has all that much more important to her. The attorneys fees in defending against Righthaven could significantly affect her ability to buy television ad time and otherwise get her message out. And during campaign season, every day and every dollar counts.

That means that Righthaven/LVRJ has much more leverage in this litigation than they do in most of their lawsuits, which have been settling for pennies-on-the-dollar nuisance-value amounts. Will the Review-Journal and Righthaven pull punches and sit on the complaint without turning up the heat in court? Or will they move things along procedurally and use their leverage to demand a big payoff?

Here are some more questions: Is it fair for Righthaven/LVRJ to use the leverage that exists because of the tempo of the campaign? Is it fair for them not to?

This is a real mess. From the perspective of integrity and the public trust, I think this is a very sorry position for a newspaper to be in. The Review-Journal never should have involved itself in the Righthaven scheme. I wonder if that is dawning on them now.

Righthaven Resentment Popping Up All Over Web

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Some websites and resources popping up about Righthaven:

Righthaven Victims: A blog posting lists of defendants, highlighting defenses, and linking to other Righthaven sites

Scribd Respository of Righthaven Litigation Documents: Scribd is pretty annoying to deal with, but the site does have many court filings that can be downloaded.

Justia Dockets for Righthaven Cases: Shows case numbers, assigned judges, and filing dates.

Righthavenlawsuits.com: Sweet domain name. A critic’s page of links.

Facebook: stop the LVRJ/RIGHTHAVEN witch hunt!: Liked by 257 people and counting.

And this is inventive: a Firefox plug-in to prevent you from visiting media company sites with ties to Righthaven, described here.

Thanks to commenter LisaMM for pointing a couple of these out.

Techdirt Digs Up Cache Problem for Cash-for-Nuisance Suer Righthaven

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Ooooh. Very interesting. Techdirt asks:

Could The Legality Of Google’s Cache Kill Righthaven’s Copyright Claims?

Two things I would add:

1. This is especially interesting since the Field v. Google case came out of the District of Nevada. That means it’s real precedent in federal court in Las Vegas.

2. The Field v. Google case was in my view wrongly decided. But not real surprising. Bad facts + silly plaintiff => bad reasoning + silly precedent. The Righthaven case may force the issue.

Righthaven Getting Small Settlements

Monday, August 16th, 2010

The latest on Righthaven from the Las Vegas Sun: Righthaven reaches settlements in 2 cases over R-J copyrights by Steve Green.

The article discloses that publicly disclosed settlements have been in the small-claims range, from $2,185 to $5,000.

Righthaven’s Innovation? Stooping Lower

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

I’ve done several posts about the Righthaven lawsuits, but I haven’t really set forth my opinion, though you may have divined one. I go on the record here:

I think what the Las Vegas Review-Journal and its thugster stooge Righthaven are doing is completely obnoxious. It reeks. It also makes the Las Vegas Review-Journal look like a pack of feral alley dwellers instead of an earnest news organization that is deserving of the public trust.

That being said, the suits are not frivolous. There are some legal issues to contend with, but Righthaven has the upper hand in these lawsuits. The first thing that jumps out to most people is fair use. Fair use is the great pressure-relief valve on our system of copyright law. Fair use frequently comes to the rescue when someone tries to employ copyright law in an unfair and harsh way. But not this time. Reposting an entire story from a newspaper on the internet, as a general matter, is just not fair use. I can imagine, hypothetically, circumstances where reposting an entire newspaper story would be fair use, but such circumstances would be very rare. The fact of the matter is, reposting whole newspaper stories is conduct that infringes copyright, and it’s generally actionable. Copyright law makes it easy for copyright holders to sue over minor transgressions. That’s the reality.

That being said, there’s nothing virtuous about Righthaven suing everyone and anyone they can without warning and without any modicum of amiability. As you go through life, you are constantly collecting opportunities to sue people. If you wanted to, you could file a stream of lawsuits for trespass, battery, and breach of contract against a variety of people with whom you have relatively normal dealings. Our system of civil law – and our system of criminal law, for that matter – work relatively well because people and businesses at all levels of society exercise considerable restraint in deciding whether or not to go to court.

Filing federal lawsuits against frightened individual bloggers who are without significant legal or financial resources, and doing so without any attempt whatsoever to resolve the dispute informally, is deplorable behavior. That would apply to anyone. But for a newspaper to do it is abhorrent.

Righthaven’s business plan is based around taking advantage of the law to do something the law itself never contemplated. I’ll give them this: Righthaven’s entrepreneurial angle is unique. But there’s nothing clever about it. Righthaven and its associated newspapers are on the cutting edge because they have stooped lower than anyone else in the news business has been willing to go. That’s nothing to be proud of.

Righthaven Rainmaking

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Searching for news on Righthaven on Google a couple days ago, I was greeted with a keyword ad from the Las Vegas law firm of Lewis and Roca, who is looking for some of the ever-expanding multitude of Righthaven defendants to come on as clients. Lewis & Roca’s landing page says:

Lewis and Roca has represented defendants in a substantial number of the cases filed by Righthaven to date in settlement negotiations and litigation. Lewis and Roca has formed a team to handle these cases in an efficient and effective manner.
Google keyword ad for Lewis & Roca: "Need Info on Righthaven? ... We defend copyright infringement cases filed by Righthaven."

Righthaven defense work is turning into a business of its own.

The Sun Says Some Righthaven Defendants are Fighting Back

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Today, from the Las Vegas Sun:

Some targets of Righthaven lawsuits fighting back, by Steve Green

Righthaven’s claims don’t appear to be so cut and dried. The defense attorneys and some defendants without attorneys are making complex legal arguments about whether the Nevada court has jurisdiction over the out-of-state defendants, whether Righthaven itself has standing to sue and whether Righthaven failed to follow the law in filing no-warning lawsuits rather than first sending requests or takedown orders …

Gun-Rights Blog Fires Back Over Righthaven Suit

Friday, July 30th, 2010

The Armed Citizen, a pro-gun-rights blog, has been one of the defendants targeted in the Las Vegas Review-Journal / Righthaven lawsuits. The Armed Citizen’s take on it is here: Lawsuit Update. They have also uploaded a document listing Righthaven lawsuits since March [PDF]. The Armed Citizen tallies 81 so far.

TechDirt Dishes on Righthaven

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

TechDirt on Righthaven: RightHaven Ramping Up Its Copyright Trolling Business.

Say Hello to My Little Friend: A Federal Complaint for Copyright Infringement

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

The latest Righthaven / Review Journal copyfighting news dispatch out of Glitter Gulch: Las Vegas Sun – “R-J mob source hit with copyright suit.”

This time the Las Vegas Review-Journal, through their copyright enforcer Righthaven, is taking on mob-enforcer-turned-federal-witness Anthony Fiato.

The allegation is that Fiato reposted Review-Journal reports about Las Vegas organized crime on his personal blog. The complaint against Fiato was filed yesterday in Nevada federal court.

All this despite the fact that Fiato was a source for LVRJ columnist John L. Smith. Fiato was even the subject of a book by Smith.

Righthaven is demanding $75,000 from Fiato. But maybe Fiato will make Righthaven an offer they can’t refuse …

Such as a lowball nuisance-value settlement.

The Las Vegas Sun reports in the same story that Righthaven accepted a $5,000 settlement offer from Odds on Racing, a horse racing news website sued previously over an allegedly reposted Review-Journal column.

Here’s my question: How do you serve a summons on someone in the witness protection program?

Federal Criminal Defendant Cites Blog’s Reposted Newspaper Story in Appellate Brief

Monday, July 19th, 2010

While Righthaven is suing people left and right for reposting newspaper articles, a federal criminal defendant from North Carolina has cited to a blog’s reposted version of a newspaper article in an appellate brief to the Fourth Circuit.

The case is United States v. John Douglas Bird, Jr., No. 09-4806. The blog is AntiPolygraph.org News, and the paper is the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Here is the portion of the brief’s table of authorities that cites the blog’s repost:

Other Authorities:

* * *

Jon Ostendorff, DA: No Assault Evidence Found Against SBI Agent, Asheville Citizen-Times, Dec. 2, 2009, (accessed on January 25, 2010, at http:// antipolygraph.org/blog/?p=373) … 11

Note: That link won’t work, but this will: https://antipolygraph.org/blog/?p=373.

Indeed, as you might expect from the fact that the brief cited the blog, the Asheville Citizen-Times story is no longer available for free on the newspaper’s website. There is a $3.95 charge to access it from the archives.

Bird is represented by the Federal Defenders office in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Righthaven “Really Outdid Itself” Suing Blogger Over Article That Contains His Material

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Wendy Davis on MediaPost’s Daily Online Examiner has slammed copyright thugster Righthaven for filing a copyright infringement suit against Anthony Curtis, the publisher of The Las Vegas Advisor blog.

The allegedly reposted article in this suit was written about the defendant, and used his data and contained quotes from him. 

Davis says that Righthaven, who is the outsource copyright plaintiff for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “has filed some questionable lawsuits in the past, but really outdid itself” this time.

According to Davis, the article involved Curtis’s annual survey results on ticket prices for Las Vegas shows. She writes:

… Curtis went to the trouble of fielding a survey and then shared his findings with the newspaper, only to find himself sued for posting portions of the ensuing article on his own blog. … if there’s ever a situation where publishing an entire article (or the bulk of one) is fair use, Curtis’s post of an article based on his own research should be it.

Righthaven’s at it Again, Syringe-Safety Group Gets Stuck, Along with Others

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

The Las Vegas Sun reported yesterday that cross-town rival newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, has six new copyright lawsuits in the courts, bringing the total to at least 56, for reposted news stories.

Individuals bloggers and a nonprofit organization that advocates for needle safety in healthcare settings are among the defendants. The suits are filed by Righthaven, who takes assignment of the LVRJ copyrights before filing suit.

According to the court filings, many of the defendants credited the Review-Journal when they reposted the story. What do we make of that? It’s pretty obvious that these people thought they were doing nothing wrong. Should copyright law make unlawful something that so many people seem to think is both legal and wholesome?

The Righthaven Review-Journal lawsuits may tell us a lot about the future of copyright and news stories online.

WIll other newspapers follow the LVRJ’s lead? Or will they decide they don’t care to pursue copyright entitlements in this way? If the industry as a whole shrugs its shoulders, it may establish a custom and practice that eventually cements into a judicial view of fair use highly permissive of reposting.

James Rainey from the LA Times on Artiegate

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

James Rainey has written a column in the Los Angeles Times on the Las Vegas Review Journal’s federal court fight against a Boston-based blogging cat and the humans who apparently lent the cat a computer. The copyright suit ensued after the blog reposted an LVRJ story about a fire at a bird sanctuary. (My original post on Artiegate is here.)

“The newspaper people had me pretty much in their corner until they went after the cat people,” Rainey writes.

For the column, Rainey spoke with the Review Journal’s in-house lawyer, and Rainey hints that the LVRJ’s lawyer, who apparently is not involved in the litigation, may have found the lawsuit against Artie’s humans a bit uncomfortable:

The paper’s in-house counsel, Hinueber, seemed to have a sense that his paper effectively had blasted a small tabby with a howitzer. He didn’t promise to drop the suit, but offered: “I just learned about the filing on the cat thing. I’m going to talk to [Righthaven] about that.”

Righthaven is the plaintiff in the lawsuit. Righthaven acquires copyrights to articles from the Review Journal before filing suit against the alleged infringers.

Purr-loined Story Gets Cat Blog Sued

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

ALLEGED COPYCAT: Artie, a cat living in Boston, Mass., is the supposed author of a blog that has been sued for reposting a newspaper story about a bird sanctuary.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that its rival newspaper, the Las Vegas Review Journal, has partnered with a company called Righthaven LLC to sue bloggers and others for copyright infringement for reposting Review Journal stories, or portions of stories, on the web.

A total of 34 defendants have been sued in such suits, according to the Sun, the latest group of which includes Allegra and Emerson Wong of Boston, Mass., who have a noncommercial blog about cats: City Feline Blog, written from the perspective of a cat.

Righthaven, the plaintiff in the suits, apparently finds Review Journal stories reposted elsewhere on the web, acquires the copyrights from the Review Journal, and then files suit against the reposters.

The Sun reports that the complaints, filed in federal court in Las Vegas, have generally sought $75,000 in damages, and at least four of the lawsuits have been settled. The amount of the settlement for one of the lawsuits is known: NORML – the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws – agreed to pay $2,185 to have their action dismissed.

According to the Sun’s review of the court filing, the amount of $2,185  was arrived at by NORML by calculating the maximum amount of the Review Journal’s lost revenue – based on the reposted story’s visitors and the Review Journal’s news archive access fee, and then tripling that amount. The Sun pointed out that NORML’s attorneys’ fees to that point must have easily exceeded the settlement amount. I agree that seems likely.

The NORML filing included this observation: “If Righthaven does not accept this offer, Righthaven may become obligated to pay NORML’s costs incurred after the making of this offer[.]”

I’ll note that with statutory damages, it may well have been possible for the court to award a recovery for Righthaven far in excess of $2,185. Though such a sum might well have been highly unlikely. NORML’s tactic appears then to have been to offer a high nuisance value settlement and then transfer the risk for litigation costs to Righthaven for rejecting the offer and rolling the dice to try to obtain a higher dollar amount.

The Review Journal commented on the lawsuits in their own blog post from the publisher: “Copyright theft: We’re not taking it anymore.”

In a twist, the Las Vegas Sun has, themselves, reposted the bird sanctuary story by hosting a pdf of Exhibit 1 to the complaint against the Wongs.

We’ll be waiting to see if Righthaven takes the bait and sues the Sun.