Sharron Angle signals interest in settling copyright lawsuit

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle is signaling she's interested in settling a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against her by the Las Vegas Review-Journal's copyright enforcement partner.

A settlement in the Sept. 3 lawsuit wouldn't be surprising, given that the Review-Journal has endorsed her candidacy over incumbent Democratic Sen. Harry Reid.

And settlements are routine for Righthaven, which through this week had settled at least 49 of its lawsuits.

The potential for a settlement in the Angle case was signaled Friday when a Las Vegas attorney she retained to handle the case, Patrick Byrne of the law firm Snell & Wilmer LLP, and Righthaven filed a stipulation in court giving Angle extra time, until Oct. 25, to answer the lawsuit. The initial deadline for Angle to respond had been Oct. 2.

"The parties acknowledge that the law firm of Snell & Wilmer was just recently retained to represent Angle and has not had time to investigate the claims and prepare a responsive pleading within the time frame required for Angle's responsive pleading," the stipulation said. "The parties agree that they would like to explore a potential negotiated resolution before proceeding further with formal discovery."

Even as Righthaven works on potential settlements with defendants like Angle, its legal workload appears to be growing as other defendants like the Democratic Underground fight back.

Besides the Democratic Underground, the owner of Field & Stream magazine is one of the latest defendants to answer a Righthaven lawsuit alleging an unauthorized use of Las Vegas Review-Journal material on its website.

Bonnier Corp., based in Winter Park, Fla., was sued Sept. 14 after a prolific poster on the Field & Stream website, Clay Cooper, posted on a site message board a July 19 Review-Journal story about a gun rights lawsuit.

"Bonnier knew, or reasonably should have known, that websites, such as the (Field & Stream) website, are and were at all times relevant to this lawsuit, the habitual subject of postings by others of copyright-infringing content," Righthaven charged in the suit, further alleging Bonnier failed to monitor for or delete infringing content from its website.

This "constitutes Bonnier's willful blindness to copyright infringements occurring on the website," Righthaven alleged.

Attorneys for Bonnier, however, fired back in their answer Oct. 5, saying:

•"The plaintiff's purported assignor (Review-Journal owner Stephens Media LLC) granted an implied license to copy and share the work (story) by posting the work on its website and by providing tools for electronically sharing the work."

• "The posting of the work by Clay Cooper was fair use. The work was attributed to the author and publisher."

• "The plaintiff's claim is barred by its unclean hands, in that the plaintiff is engaged in barratry."

(Barratry is defined as the excessive incitement of litigation. Righthaven defendants say the company's typical procedure of suing without trying to resolve copyright infringements out of court backs up this claim. Righthaven says it's not practical for newspapers to contact alleged infringers to request they stop infringing.)

• "The plaintiff's claim is barred by its unclean hands, because the alleged infringement, if any, resulted from the plaintiff's purported assignor's use and promotion of electronic tools for copying and sharing the work."

• "The plaintiff's claim is barred by copyright misuse."

Bonnier is represented in the litigation by attorney Michael Crosbie of Shutts & Bowen LLP in Orlando and by Byrne of Snell & Wilmer.

Attorneys for Stephens Media and potentially Righthaven may also have to deal with a subpoena requiring Review-Journal Publisher Sherman Frederick to appear to testify during a deposition Oct. 20 at the law offices of Lewis and Roca LLP in Las Vegas.

The subpoena was issued in the case of Righthaven defendant Internet Brands Inc., owner of the website, where someone allegedly posted on a message board a Review-Journal story involving Nevada's U.S. Senate race.

Internet Brands, represented by Lewis and Roca as well as Manhattan Beach, Calif., attorney Wendy Evelyn Giberti of iGeneral Counsel P.C., has responded to the lawsuit by alleging Righthaven is involved in copyright misuse, barratry and champerty and that the online posting didn't infringe on any copyrights because the Review-Journal provides an "implied license" to share its content online.

The questioning of Frederick may involve issues including the allegation of champerty, which is defined as an improper relationship between a party funding a lawsuit and the party actually filing the suit.

An affiliate of Review-Journal parent company Stephens Media in Arkansas has invested in Righthaven, and Stephens Media provides the copyrights upon which the lawsuits are based.

Righthaven, which through Oct. 7 had sued at least 146 website operators since March, separately reached confidential settlements with two more defendants:

• Paul Anthony Parson

• Hepatitis C Support Project