Righthaven now working with Media News, sues over Denver Post column

Las Vegas-based newspaper copyright enforcement company Righthaven LLC is now doing business with Media News Group and has sued a blogger for alleged copyright infringement involving a column from the Media News-owned Denver Post.

An attorney for Righthaven filed the suit Thursday in federal court in Charleston, S.C. This appears to be the first lawsuit Righthaven has filed in a federal court outside of Nevada, where since March it has filed 179 copyright infringement lawsuits.

Thursday’s suit would seem to raise the stakes in Righthaven’s litigation campaign as it now involves Media News, which calls itself the nation’s second-largest media company, with major newspaper operations in Colorado, Northern and Southern California, Salt Lake City, El Paso, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Detroit and elsewhere.

In California, Media News is part of a partnership called the Bay Area News Group that includes Stephens Media. An affiliate of Stephens Media has invested in Righthaven and, until now, all of Righthaven’s lawsuits involved the Stephens Media-owned Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The Righthaven lawsuit campaign, involving suits typically filed without warning or a takedown request, has attracted national attention because it’s a departure from the usual practice in the newspaper industry of trying to resolve copyright problems out of court.

Attorneys for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a freedom of speech and privacy group based in San Francisco, call the Righthaven lawsuits a threat to free speech and have hit Righthaven and its partner in the Nevada lawsuits, Stephens Media, with counterclaims in two of the Nevada cases.

Righthaven and Stephens Media, however, have said the lawsuits are necessary to prevent infringement of copyrighted material in the Review-Journal.

Thursday’s lawsuit, filed on behalf of Righthaven by attorney Edward Fenno of the Fenno Law firm in Charleston, S.C., claims Dana Eiser posted to her blog lowcountry912.wordpress.com a “literary work” for which Righthaven owns the copyright to.

That literary work, court records show, is a column by Mike Rosen called “Rosen: A letter to the Tea Partyers” that was posted on the Denver Post website on Sept. 23.

The same day, the column was re-posted on Eiser’s blog, with the column credited to Rosen and the Denver Post.

Nearly two months later, on Nov. 19, Righthaven applied to the U.S. Copyright Office for rights to the Denver Post column, citing a transfer agreement from Media News.

This is the same way Righthaven has worked with Stephens Media and the Review-Journal, obtaining copyrights weeks or months after stories, editorials, columns and illustrations are published — then suing the alleged infringers on a retroactive basis.

Eiser has not yet responded to the lawsuit against her. Righthaven says she lives in Summerville, S.C.

Righthaven usually seeks damages of $150,000 in its Nevada lawsuits. However, the company’s monetary claim against Eiser was not spelled out in Thursday’s suit.

As in all of its lawsuits, Righthaven seeks a court order transferring control of the website to Righthaven.

The EFF and Righthaven critics say there’s no basis in copyright law for Righthaven to demand forfeiture of website domain names and such a forfeiture would violate a defendant’s freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Righthaven insists the demands are proper.