Righthaven reaches another copyright settlement over R-J website content

Defendant one of chief critics of Righthaven’s copyright lawsuit campaign

Sun archives

Las Vegas online copyright enforcement company Righthaven LLC has reached another legal settlement with a defendant that had been highly critical of Righthaven's lawsuit campaign.

Righthaven — which sues over alleged online infringements of Las Vegas Review-Journal stories, columns and editorials — revealed in court papers this week a settlement with the Idaho-based Armed Citizen, which ran a website that included news stories documenting instances of citizens using weapons to defend themselves.

Terms of the settlement weren't disclosed. Righthaven had demanded $75,000 in damages against the Armed Citizen and two officials who ran the site, Clayton Cramer and David Burnett.

After the Armed Citizen was sued in July, the Armed Citizen shut down and Cramer and Burnett emerged as leaders in trying to unite Righthaven defendants and to raise money to fight the lawsuits.

Righthaven, which has filed at least 144 lawsuits since March, earlier reached a settlement with another vocal critic, Austin, Texas, radio talk show host Alex Jones, who has a company called Free Speech Systems LLC and websites called www.prisonplanet.com and www.infowars.com.

"We settled with Righthaven because while we believe that a trial would have given a tiny judgment (if any) against us, the costs of proceeding to trial would have been tens of thousands of dollars — with no certainty that we would ever be able to recover those legal costs. We would have needed to come up with that enormous amount of money before going to trial. The enormous costs of going to trial in a civil suit effectively mean that if you aren't a multimillionaire, you can't afford justice,'' Cramer said Thursday.

"We believe that the draconian penalties of DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) were intended primarily to punish file sharing of entertainment, which has enormous economic value (unlike old news articles). To use the enormous penalties of DMCA with respect to a few newspaper articles archived for a scholarly, public purpose, arguably within fair use, does not appear to be what Congress intended. The common — and industry standard — courtesy of contacting us would have caused immediate removal of the article in question. Even a request for reasonable damages — such as the $750 at the bottom of the statutory damages scale — would have (been) paid without argument. We believe that this approach would have worked with nearly all of the defendants that Righthaven sued.''

Cyberspace, in the meantime, is abuzz with news about a counterclaim filed against Righthaven and Review-Journal owner Stephens Media LLC this week by attorneys for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in a case involving the political site operated by the Democratic Underground.

Righthaven is controlled by Las Vegas attorney Steven Gibson and an affiliate of Stephens Media's parent company.

Typical of the comments are these:

• "It looks like the Electronic Frontier Foundation is fed up with this guy's crap and has decided to give him a taste of his own medicine (a lawsuit).'' —hardocp.com

• "After bragging about his attempts to shut down copyright violators, Stephens Media’s Sherman Frederick has been countersued Monday and, in a sense, so has your local newspaper (in Arkansas, where Stephens has interests in newspapers) for allegedly bullying websites that excerpt from their stories.'' And: "Stephens Media owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal and has created a vicious copyright hound called Righthaven LLC to seek out and destroy instances of its stories appearing elsewhere online.'' —ozarksunbound.com

• "Midnight Politics (in Fayetteville, Ark.) to stop using cited material from Stephens Media.'' And: "As our friends at Ozarks Unbound and numerous other websites have pointed out, Stephens is waging war against many small websites, sites like Midnight Politics, for using their content, even with proper citation.'' —midnightpolitics.com

• "EFF comes out, guns blazing, in countersuit against Righthaven & Stephens Media.'' And: "The response also asks for attorney's fees from Righthaven and Stephens Media. While that may be a longshot, if they get it, it certainly would put a pretty big bite into whatever money Righthaven and Stephens have made from previous lawsuits.'' —techdirt.com

• "It’s sad to say, but we all know how such intimidation works in a society with bilateral legal costs — i.e., it costs to prosecute and it costs to defend. If these charges are true, then Righthaven has been skimming money through what amounts to a protection racket — `Hey, we wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to this little blog of yours, now would we?' Naive content purveyors with little money and a lot of perceived exposure are the perfect targets for such schemes.'' And: "Like the trolls from fables, Righthaven and Stephens Media might also just have a bad attitude. I mean, a nicer entity would create a permissions system, which could be (net the lawyer’s salary) just as lucrative as the litigious approach. It seems much kinder to generate revenues from syndication and permissions — far superior in aspect and countenance to being accused of operating as a copyright troll.''—http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org

Stephens Media officials, however, have said the benefits of the lawsuits are worth the bad publicity and say the litigation is necessary to deter online infringement of Stephens' material.