Former defendant recalls Righthaven copyright ordeal

A former Righthaven LLC defendant marked the Fourth of July by recalling her ordeal with a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by the Las Vegas company.

"I turned out to be one of hundreds of American bloggers carpet-bombed by Righthaven," Margaret Soltan, an English professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., recalled in a new blog post.

Righthaven since March 2010 has filed 274 lawsuits against website operators, bloggers and message-board posters alleging online infringements of material from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post.

Before its litigation campaign ran into trouble with rulings against its standing to sue; and fair-use losses in three cases; many defendants, like Soltan, had settled under undisclosed terms.

Soltan, who has a noncommercial blog called "University Diaries'' about American university life, was sued last year over material from a Review-Journal story she had posted.

At issue was an R-J story about a UNLV assistant football coach who had been charged with trespassing and prohibited use of weapons in Colorado.

At the time, Soltan said she did not post the story at issue, but rather quoted some paragraphs from it and posted them with a link to the original story.

In her new blog post over the holiday weekend, Soltan wrote, "Last summer, at just this time, my freedom to blog ended."

Soltan, however, ended up keeping her blog going and recalled settling with Righthaven after the company "frightened me right down to the ground."

Righthaven in its suit against Soltan had demanded $75,000 in statutory damages and forfeiture of her website domain name. Righthaven later upped its standard damages demand to $150,000, but is known to have settled suits for as little as $1,000 and payment terms of $100 per month.

Soltan this weekend expressed concern for other defendants including retirees, veterans and people with disabilities whose "lives have been nightmarish, filled with fear that they will lose everything they own because they quoted a few lines from a newspaper story."

And Soltan expressed appreciation for U.S. institutions taking action against the "unfreedom" represented by Righthaven.

Despite these criticisms, Righthaven says its no-warning lawsuits are needed to combat widespread misappropriation of news content, while Review-Journal owner Stephens Media LLC says Righthaven is targeting a parasitic business model.

In another Righthaven development, attorneys for South Carolina Righthaven/Denver Post defendant Dana Eiser filed papers in federal court in South Carolina on Friday regarding a waiver to former Righthaven attorney Anne Pieroni.

In Eiser’s new and massive amended counterclaim, Pieroni is mentioned as a potential defendant.

"Plaintiff and Ms. Pieroni have now amicably resolved all matters between them," the waiver says.

"Eiser waives any and all claims against Ms. Pieroni associated with her employment with Righthaven whether asserted in this action or any other," the filing says.

"Additionally, Plaintiff has investigated the matter and believes Ms. Pieroni was not involved in any of the alleged wrongdoing at Righthaven," the waiver says.

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  1. I sincerely hope that EFF or others will help those like Sultan who were probably within fair use but settled because they did not have the knowledge or resources to defend themselves. It is precisely cases like hers the exemplify why so many of us are upset over what Righthaven has done.

    Sultan's case, others like it, is a primary example that Righthaven is little more than a shakedown operation based on digital ambulance chasing in the opinion of many of those who have followed and commented on this saga.

  2. If They gave former in-house counsel Anne Pieroni a waiver it makes you wonder if she is cooperating with Dana Eiser's attorneys? After Righthaven threw their former in-house counsels under the bus by blaming them for not disclosing Stephens Media as an interested party I could see some of them coming forward for some pay-back.

  3. And here we can point out that Soltan, a college professor blogging for the benefit of students and faculty regarding university life on a clearly non-commercial website is extorted by Righthaven, who should have know that on its face their allegations were baseless, while Sherman Frederick, the former CEO of Stephens Media, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review Journal, and biggest Righthaven fan, engaged IN PRECISELY THE SAME use of material under a copyright he does not own....but on a COMMERCIAL website, and for the purposes of defending Righthaven.

    You simply cannot make this stuff up....you would be labeled an idiot.