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Archive for September 2010

Sharron Angle’s Getting Sued. But Wait, Because It’s Not That Funny…

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Okay, so Sharron Angle, the deranged tea party candidate for US Senate in Nevada, is being sued for copyright infringement (emphasis added):

The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s copyright infringement lawsuit partner on Friday sued U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle over R-J material posted on her website, allegedly without authorization.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas by Righthaven LLC, seeks damages of $150,000 against Angle personally and forfeiture of her website domain name sharronangle.com.

Real funny, right? Not really. I mean, sure it’s amusing that a political adversary is being sued during the campaign for something campaign related. But, when you actually consider the situation instead of just snarking (as I’ve seen far too many lefty blogs doing) it’s actually not funny at all.

The lawsuit was filed by a company called Righthaven. Righthaven was started with venture capital funds by Stephens Media, the publishing company that owns The Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Righthaven basically trolls the internet looking for copyright violations.  Then, they purchase the copyright from the newspaper and file a lawsuit against the blog:

Since early spring, Righthaven has filed about a hundred lawsuits in federal court alleging infringement of Stephens’ copyrights. While many target small-time bloggers such as a Boston woman who writes about her cat, others are directed at for-profit companies such as the gambling site Majorwager.com, or advocacy groups such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The suits are filed without warning; website owners are given no opportunity to remove the offending material before they’re slapped with litigation.

[…]

Righthaven typically offers defendants the opportunity to settle the cases out of court to avoid the substantial cost of a trial. While the details of such settlements are confidential, the Las Vegas Sun reported that 22 of the Righthaven suits were settled as of Aug. 18, with known settlements ranging from $2,185 to $5,000.

The goal is simple. Find infringements and use the spectre of expensive litigation and/or very costly penalties to scare the alleged infringer into a settlement:

[Righthaven’s] vision is to monetize news content on the backend, by scouring the internet for infringing copies of his client’s articles, then suing and relying on the harsh penalties in the Copyright Act — up to $150,000 for a single infringement — to compel quick settlements.

Go ahead. Think it can’t happen to you. Or, yell something about “Fair Use.” Let me just remind you of this little fact: “fair use” isn’t a shield against lawsuits.  In other words, fair use doesn’t prevent someone from suing you.  Instead, fair use is a defense that can be used at trial.

Righthaven knows this. They also know, it’s probably a lot cheaper for you to pay them a settlement of few thousand bucks than to try and exonerate yourself at trial with the fair use defense, which would cost you many more thousands of dollars in legal fees.

But, they will only care if you’re copying the entire article, right? Not necessarily.  If you quote anymore than a 100 words, you’re technically in violation of their copyright.  From Las Vegas Sun’s website:

Text from our stories can be quoted when linking to our content, but it must not be more than one-tenth of the total word count of the story or 100 words, whichever is lesser. Quoted content must contain a direct link to the story from which it is taken.

Oh, and Righthaven is expanding:

Stephens Media in Las Vegas, runs over 70 other newspapers in nine states, and Gibson says he already has an agreement to expand his practice to cover those properties.

Righthaven is a business. And, this particular business will have real consequences for individual people, who get bullied into a settlement, as well as the blogosphere as a whole.  Instead of snarking, a bit of analysis might help shed some light on a practice that will no doubt affect the way people blog.

Regardless of what you think about copyright, Righthaven is quite aggressive and nasty in its practices.  EFF makes the case here.

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Written by Angelo

September 5, 2010 at 4:01 pm