Righthaven delivers statements in latest suit

VEGAS INC coverage

Las Vegas copyright enforcement company Righthaven LLC made a couple of statements with its latest lawsuit Thursday.

In filing its first lawsuit over Las Vegas Review-Journal material since Jan. 17, Righthaven may silence critics who have been saying its copyright litigation campaign over Review-Journal material has been stalled by unfavorable court rulings — including two fair use defeats, unsealing of its Strategic Alliance Agreement with Review-Journal owner Stephens Media LLC and rejection of its domain-name demand in lawsuits.

Righthaven’s second statement was that the Review-Journal isn’t the only Las Vegas newspaper seeing its material infringed on — the new lawsuit alleges the defendant website has been without authorization posting Las Vegas Sun stories as well.

The suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for Nevada against Tony Carl Loosle and TCS Inc., which Righthaven says is a Utah corporation.

The lawsuit says Loosle is identified by Utah authorities as president of TCS and that TCS is the registrant of the advertiser-supported website lasvegasinfonewspaper.com.

That website posted without authorization six Review-Journal stories from Dec. 24 and Dec. 25 — the copyrights for which are now owned by Righthaven, the lawsuit says.

“The defendants willfully copied, on an unauthorized basis, the works from a source emanating from Nevada. The infringements have depicted and depict the original source publication as the Las Vegas Review-Journal,” the lawsuit said.

While Righthaven does not obtain copyrights from the Las Vegas Sun and the Sun is not a party to the lawsuit, the Sun nevertheless is mentioned in the lawsuit.

“The nature and extent of the defendants’ serial, unadulterated copyright infringement is further demonstrated by the defendants’ apparently unauthorized exploitation of numerous literary works published by the Las Vegas Sun,” Righthaven’s lawsuit says.

The lawsuit went on to note five Las Vegas Sun stories that appeared to be posted on the website without authorization on April 9 and 10, including a Sun story about a Righthaven lawsuit.

(A senior Sun online editor confirmed Thursday the website didn’t have authorization to post those stories).

The policy of the Sun and other Greenspun Media Group publications is that readers may post up to 100 words or 10 percent of a story, whichever is less, and a link. This policy is spelled out in the Greenspun Media Group’s online readers agreements such as the Sun’s.

Websites and bloggers found to be in violation of this policy are typically contacted and asked or directed to comply with the reader agreement.

Righthaven, in the meantime, as usual sought $150,000 in statutory damages in Thursday’s suit. But it didn’t press for the court to order the third party domain name registrar to lock the website domain name and transfer it to Righthaven. That standard demand was rejected in a case last week by Chief U.S. District Judge for Nevada Roger Hunt, who noted it’s not authorized by the Copyright Act.

Righthaven did ask the court to “order the surrender to Righthaven of all hardware, software, electronic media and domains, including the domain used to store, disseminate and display the unauthorized versions of any and all copyrighted works.”

The judges hearing Righthaven cases have not yet ruled on the validity of this direct demand for a domain surrender, as opposed to the former request that a third party domain registrar lock and transfer the domain.

Messages for comment were left for the latest Righthaven defendants through the lasvegasinfonewspaper.com website.

Thursday’s suit lifts to 209 the number of lawsuits Righthaven has filed over Review-Journal material. The company also sues over alleged infringements involving Denver Post material and has now filed at least 265 lawsuits over Review-Journal and Denver Post material.

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  1. I see we've moved into the "Rightaven as petulant child" stage of the proceedings...
    I bet Da' Judge doesn't find it amusing.

    I hear a rattling, gurgling sound coming from a group of LAWYERS...

    PAGING SHERMY! PAGING SHERMY!
    Report to ICU IMMEDIATELY!
    Your "little friend" is FLATLINING!!!

  2. Sarge, I'm not a lawyer and I can't answer that question. What I find interesting, and arguably this may be off target, is that while the RJ (and the Sun) post the parameters for reposting (though those pages seem at least modestly obscure on their sites), the RJ, at least, no longer publishes a page that discusses "reprints." If I recall correctly, it used to and it sold reprints. I know one can buy a plaque, a mounted laminated copy of the article at a very reasonable price. However, it is perplexing that permission to obtain physical reprints is very challenging to say the least.

  3. I think the Las Vegas Sun can choose to fight their own battles and not have Righthaven choose it for them. Righthaven had no right to mention a non-participating entity like the Las Vegas Sun in their law-suit. They have a lot of nerve speaking for a competing newspaper.

    As before if the Las Vegas Review Journal or Stephens Media wants to sue people for copyright infringement then do it above board and hire a reputable lawfirm. If they did that their cases would be much stronger and would not have the negative strings attached and unneeded complications.

    Righthaven is only tightening their own noose by filing anymore lawsuits. Every lawsuit to them is now a counter suit waiting to happen.

  4. Chunky says:

    Copyright is the secondary issue with Righthaven. The problem most have with them is their business model of shaking down violators without a prior take-down notice and their strong-armed approach while using the courts inappropriately.

    Frankly this wouldn't even be a story if they sent take down notices and then sued when there was a failure to comply.

    That's what Chunky thinks!

  5. Chunky

    You are right again that Righthaven is not about copyrights but about fair play, clean hands and the proper role of the courts.

    Lawsuits were always intended to be a last resort when all else fails. When a party has been wronged they should first try and give the alleged offender the ability to try and right the wrong but if that is not possible only then should the courts get involved.

  6. I looked at the lasvegasinfo site, and found many stories that originated from the RJ, and one from Las Vegas, Inc. I'm sure I could find some from the Sun as well.

    I would have no problem saying that lasvegasinfonewspaper goes well beyond fair use (I am not a lawyer.) After all, they are publishing the entire story surrounded by ads and even a solicitation to advertise on the site.

    I would suspect they are bringing in stories from an RSS feed. And if they try to defend this I'm sure they will say the RJ (and others) encourage people to share the stories. I've stated before I don't buy the implied license defense based upon share buttons because the buttons only provide a link to be shared, not the story itself.

    RH is dreaming with their hardware demands considering that few people run their own servers anymore, but use a shared hosting service instead. RH should really just stick to the parameters in the copyright act for claims.

    So now the only real question is would they have responded to a take-down notice? Granted, one probably isn't required, but it would give RH a much better stance, all things considered.

    But overall I think that site is a legitimate target for RH.

  7. Looking at it a bit more, and knowing for a fact that the Sun's RSS feeds do not (with a couple of rare exceptions) contain the full text of a story, I can make a pretty good guess at how sites like lasvegasinfo are doing this.

    They have software that grabs the story headline and URL from an RSS feed. The software then follows the URL and uses HTML scraping to grab the contents of the article "div", which is easily identifiable by an automated process.

    I can think of 1 or 2 ways that this can be made more difficult, and anyone circumventing it would have little defense if they exceeded the guidelines set forth by the originating site.

    The ethical thing to do would be to ask for permission to republish ONLY the RSS feed itself, which is what I have done from time to time. An RSS feed usually only contains a headline, one or two sentences, and the link to the full story.

  8. The archives for lasvegasinfo only go back to November of 2010. I have to wonder if someone put this up as a test case. It doesn't seem likely that anyone in the Las Vegas area hadn't heard something about Righthaven, and the site is doing everything that should raise a red flag.

    It has nothing but scraped articles from what I can tell, including photos. It is a for-profit site, and there is zero original content that I have seen. It is strictly a collection site. They are clearly in the same market area by any definition you wish to apply.

    The only possible defense other than technical defects with Righthaven's claims I can imagine they would use is the "implied license" one, and I've given my reasons for why I don't think that is valid.

    A person more cynical than me might think there is more than meets the eye here. That someone wants to put the Righthaven business model itself on trial and is willing to pay to do so.

  9. Rock

    Looking at the source of their page it does not look like they are getting an RSS feed from the RJ. I almost agree with botx that this may be a case were someone set up this site just to be sued by Righthaven. However until Righthaven's copyright ownership question is resolved by the court it is highly irresponsible for them to file any new lawsuits regarding RJ stories.

  10. Ken, there is little doubt this is an automated feed aggregator that can use HTML scraping to capture the full article text from the original page once the URL has been captured from the RSS feed. I could write something like this in a day or so just by modifying one of several existing packages for the CMS I use, and I suspect this is a common plugin for Wordpress since so many sites have done similar things. But again, from a technical standpoint this is trivial to do. It would be more interesting to devise a decent defense (as in prevention) against it.

    What is more interesting is if you look at the site on the Internet Wayback Machine. It is clear the format has been radically altered, and before November of last year the site didn't operate in this fashion at all.

    The site itself has been up since 2007, but apparently did not adopt its current format until November of last year.

  11. I didn't catch this on the first read but Righthaven is trying to up the anti on any potential reward by this demand

    "Righthaven did ask the court to "order the surrender to Righthaven of all hardware, software, electronic media and domains, including the domain used to store, disseminate and display the unauthorized versions of any and all copyrighted works."

    So now they are demanding all hardware and software and all domains owned by the defendant.

    This seems pretty brazen after a judge already slapped them down. Their brazenness is a sign a desperation. They are upping the anti as some kind of ruse to make them look like they still have a coherent operation.

  12. Rock

    I think I did answer that if the RJ themselves initiated the suit they may have a case but Righthaven should not be initiating any more lawsuits until issues of ownership are resolved.

    And no I don't believe people should post entire articles. Fair use should also be fair to the copyright holder and not diminish the value of their works.

  13. There is nothing that says that RH and SM couldn't have modified the agreement so as to remove the obvious objections before filing this suit. But if they haven't then I agree they are probably wasting their time, even though this should be a slam-dunk for them under other circumstances.

  14. Okay, here is the software being used: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/rss-...

    It is designed specifically to "...automatically grab FULL articles from chosen RSS Feeds." It has several configurable features, One, that was only added in the latest version that was released in October of last year, is an adjustable word limit. I suspect that part is not well documented or doesn't try to find logical break points such as sentences and most people ignore it.

    Most importantly, nowhere does it say that use of the software might result in copyright violations. Given that it has been downloaded over 18,000 times that means there are plenty of targets for RH and others.

    For what it's worth, this is a bad design in my opinion as a programmer and opens up many unsuspecting bloggers who are ignorant of the law to legal action. Reasonable RSS aggregation software uses only the data from the feed itself.

    You can verify the package is being used by looking at the source URL for the photos being displayed, they come from the rss-poster cache. This means that the software also copies any images in the original article, resizes them as needed to fit, and stores them locally.

  15. Not to beat a horse to death, but here is the website for the company that wrote rss-poster: http://www.wprssposter.com/

    And yes, there is a "pro" version you can buy with even more features. And again, there is no statement anywhere on the site that says you might be in violation of copyright law by using the software. Its intended use is as an "autoblog" as they put it.

    But they must be aware of the problem because the pro version includes a configurable "re-writer" that can alter the wording automatically for you.

    Of special note is that I found a post on a different site where someone had downloaded it, tried it out, and it worked so good he uninstalled it and asked how he could block it from scraping from his site. He never received an answer. He said the software worked perfectly but had a moral issue. (I agree.) This was about 6 months ago.

  16. Righthaven's comedy of errors continues, emphisis on the comedy, in this lawsuit they site a law that does not even exist.

    they site 17 U.S.C. 505(b) but rule 505 has no subsection b and even rule 505 only deals with costs and attorney's fees so Righthaven has taken it upon themselves the roll of lawmakers.

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/505...

  17. I heard NPR's "On the Media" show yesterday, they talked about Righthaven and the copyright issue.