Nevada Democratic Party settles copyright lawsuit

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The Democratic Party of Nevada is among the latest defendants to settle copyright infringement lawsuits filed over the online re-postings of Las Vegas Review-Journal stories.

The settlement was disclosed in court papers this week by Righthaven LLC, the Las Vegas company that sues over Review-Journal copyrights. Terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed.

“On or about Sept. 14, the parties entered into a settlement agreement whereby Democratic Party of Nevada shall be released from all claims of copyright infringement in the above-entitled matter, upon full compliance with the terms of the agreement,” a court filing said.

The party was sued July 9 in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas by Righthaven, which typically in its latest lawsuits demands statutory damages of $150,000 and forfeiture of website domain names.

But legal insiders say Righthaven typically settles for less than five figures and allows settling defendants to keep their Internet names.

Righthaven, which through this week had filed at least 144 copyright infringement lawsuits since March, was in the news earlier in the week when it and the Review-Journal’s owner, Stephens Media LLC, were hit with a counterclaim by another defendant, the Democratic Underground.

Before settling the case, attorneys for the Nevada Democratic Party filed court papers admitting three Review-Journal stories and portions of two more Review-Journal stories at issue were displayed on the party’s website.

As for one story for which Righthaven obtained a copyright and sought $75,000 in damages for — involving February Nevada gaming win numbers — the party admitted it did not seek permission to display the story but said that its display of the story was allowed under the fair use concept of copyright law.

Other recently confirmed Righthaven settlements were with the Motorcycle Racing Association of Nevada and Erin Wilcox, whom Righthaven said had a website called Stranger Than Fiction.

The website allegedly posted without authorization a May 25 column by Review-Journal Publisher Sherman Frederick called “The TSA’s mini ‘Watch List’” complaining about unionization of Transportation Security Administration employees and a TSA list of “peeved travelers.” The post of the story credited it to the Review-Journal.

The Motorcycle Racing Association of Nevada was accused of displaying a Review-Journal story from February about proposed national monument designations.

An official at the Motorcycle Racing Association told the Las Vegas Sun that the lawsuits are a “scam,” but said the group chose not to fight Righthaven.

“We reached a settlement but the details are confidential and disclosure would open us up to another lawsuit. It was our feeling that it was more cost-effective to settle than to fight it and risk our financial well-being,” the official said.

An official at another settling defendant, the Idaho-based Armed Citizen, echoed that sentiment about the risk of fighting the suit.

“Most of our readers and fans thought these lawsuits were frivolous and worth fighting, but — as Righthaven knew — it simply wasn’t worth the risk and the headaches. Standing on principle is very expensive. It was simpler to pay some money and make it go away. There are many who would consider that legal extortion,” said David Burnett. “Fortunately for us, our readers and fans sent in enough donations that we won’t be out any money personally whatsoever. We’ll actually have some left over to reinvest in a better website, but I worry for the minimum-wage, spare-time bloggers victimized by Righthaven. Having nothing to lose is a scary place to be.

“Speaking as a future law student, it’s very disillusioning to see such greedy exploitation of a loophole that exists only because the law hasn’t caught up with technology. Had Righthaven existed a century ago, I have no doubt they would have sued someone’s grandmother for posting a newspaper clipping in a shop-front window. Industry pirates like that give the profession a bad name,” he said.

Righthaven and the Review-Journal, however say the lawsuits are necessary to stop infringements of Review-Journal material.