Two more website operators face Righthaven copyright lawsuits

Two more website operators were hit with copyright infringement lawsuits Wednesday after material from the Las Vegas Review-Journal allegedly was posted on their sites without authorization.

The Internet site operators were sued by Righthaven LLC, the Review-Journal’s copyright enforcement partner that has now filed at least 172 such suits since March in U.S. District Court for Nevada.

The latest defendants are:

• Fan Sites Network, Gertie Beth, Jennifer M. Frisby and Robert L. Frisby; whom Righthaven says are associated with the website An Oct. 22 Review-Journal story, “Jabbawockeez dance troupe still cresting as show celebrates opening today” was posted on the site that day, Righthaven alleges.

• Connected Nation Inc., which Righthaven says is associated with the websites and Material from the Review-Journal allegedly was posted on these sites on Oct. 24.

Connected Nation says on its website it’s a national non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that works with state and local governments to expand access to and use of broadband Internet-related technologies.

Righthaven in the lawsuits, as usual, seeks damages of $150,000 apiece as well as forfeiture of the website domain names to Righthaven.

Messages for comment were left with the latest defendants.

Separately, the relationship between Righthaven, the Review-Journal and Review-Journal owner Stephens Media LLC was at issue Wednesday when attorneys for Stephens Media filed a motion to dismiss a counterclaim against Stephens Media that was filed by attorneys for the Democratic Underground.

The counterclaim resulted from a Righthaven lawsuit against the Democratic Underground charging four paragraphs of a 34-paragraph May 13 Review-Journal story about Republican Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle were posted by a message board user on the Democratic Underground website.

Righthaven this week moved to drop the Democratic Underground lawsuit, after it suffered a setback in another case when a federal judge found the posting of the first eight sentences of a 30-sentence story amounted to fair use of the Review-Journal story.

Nevertheless, the Democratic Underground case and counterclaim remain active, so Stephens Media filed its response on Wednesday.

While Stephens Media has participated in the lawsuit campaign by having an affiliate invest in Righthaven and by assigning copyrights to Righthaven, Stephens Media says the dispute at issue is between Righthaven and the Democratic Underground and does not involve Stephens Media.

“This is a case in which a well-known company, Stephens Media, has been needlessly added as a party to a similarly needless counterclaim, despite its utter disconnection to the pertinent factual and legal issues at issue herein,” said a filing by Las Vegas attorneys Donald Campbell and J. Colby Williams of the Las Vegas law firm Campbell & Williams, which represents Stephens Media in the case. “Stephens Media’s involvement with Righthaven, as well as its involvement with this lawsuit, is limited to its role as assignor of the subject copyright. Stephens Media’s involvement with Democratic Underground is virtually non-existent.”

“No actual case or controversy exists between Stephens Media and Democratic Underground,” said the Stephens Media filing.

Attorneys for the Democratic Underground, however, have charged Righthaven is acting as an agent for Stephens Media, that “Stephens Media is an alter ego of Righthaven” and that “any separation between them for the purposes of this lawsuit is a sham.”

Allegations against Stephens Media in the counterclaim included charges by Democratic Underground attorneys that: “This case is a particularly abusive instance of a broad and aggressive strategy by Stephens Media, working in conjunction with its ‘little friend’ Righthaven as its front and sham representative, to seek windfall recoveries of statutory damages and to exact nuisance settlements by challenging a fair use of an excerpt of an article that Stephens Media makes freely available on the Internet, and which it encourages its users to ‘Share & Save’ at least 19 different ways.”

But the Stephens Media attorneys wrote in Wednesday’s filing: “Stephens Media and Righthaven do not share an agency relationship such that Righthaven’s suit against Democratic Underground could reasonably be tied to Stephens Media, and there is absolutely no evidence to support this erroneous accusation beyond the conclusory allegations leveled in the counterclaim.”

Righthaven observers, in the meantime, say the Democratic Underground case, being in the news twice this week, has highlighted differences between:

• The amount of material that the Review-Journal says can be copied and placed on websites without prior permission.

• The amount that Righthaven will now likely sue over.

• The amount a federal judge has found falls within fair use protections.

Stephens Media says on the Review-Journal website: “The appropriate method for linking to Stephens Media content is to post only the headline and the first paragraph of a story and then a link to the original textual material.”

But in one of the Righthaven lawsuits involving Realty One Group Inc., U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks on Oct. 19 dismissed the suit against defendant real estate agent Michael Nelson, saying his posting of the first eight sentences of a 30-sentence story amounted to fair use of the Review-Journal story.

That was the ruling prompting Righthaven to seek dismissal of the Democratic Underground case.

And in a court filing this week, Righthaven said “it is Righthaven’s current belief that, for the foreseeable future, nearly all Righthaven copyright cases — including those currently pending in this court — will be founded upon holistic, or near holistic, unauthorized reproductions.”

The company said that of 69 cases pending as of Monday, just four involved cases where less than 75 percent of the Review-Journal material was allegedly infringed on by defendants.