Righthaven sues Democratic Underground website over R-J posting

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The Democratic Underground, which operates a big political website from Washington, D.C., is the latest website owner to be sued for copyright infringement after a portion of a Las Vegas Review-Journal story was posted on its website.

The Democratic Underground was hit with a federal lawsuit in Las Vegas on Tuesday by Righthaven LLC, a Las Vegas company that obtains copyrights to Review-Journal stories and then retroactively sues over alleged infringements.

Court records show the Review-Journal posted a 34-paragraph story on its website May 13 about Republican Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle titled "Tea Party power fuels Angle."

The records show that on the same day, Democratic Underground website user "pampango" posted the first four paragraphs of that story, crediting it to the Review-Journal, and included a link to the rest of the story on the Review-Journal website.

Righthaven on July 9 obtained the copyright to that story from the Review-Journal's owner, Stephens Media LLC, and then sued the Democratic Underground on Tuesday. Righthaven says its arrangement with Stephens gives it the right to sue for infringements occurring before it obtains the copyrights.

By doing a Google search, the story at issue in the lawsuit can be found and read for free on the R-J website.

The Democratic Underground carries "Friends for Sharron Angle" advertising as well as anti-Angle advertising posted by "Friends for Harry Reid" -- a group supporting the Democratic Senate majority leader's re-election.

Because Review-Journal editorials are generally critical of Reid and Democrats, some critics have charged Righthaven may have a political agenda and among its lawsuit targets is the Democratic Party of Nevada. But Righthaven has also sued several conservative websites and bloggers.

The Democratic Underground says on its website that it has 161,372 user registrations and that more than 51 million posts have been made on the site since 2001.

Righthaven, as in most of its lawsuits, demands $75,000 in damages from the Democratic Underground as well as forfeiture to Righthaven of the Democratic Underground's website domain name.

"Righthaven is the owner of the copyright in the literary work entitled: 'Tea Party power fuels Angle,'" Righthaven's lawsuit says. "The defendants willfully copied, on an unauthorized basis, a substantial and significant portion of the work."

Righthaven, as in other lawsuits, also complained the Democratic Underground was aware that websites like the Democratic Underground's are "the habitual subject of postings by others of copyright-infringing content."

Yet the Democratic Underground didn't prevent such postings, monitor for such postings or remove such postings, Righthaven alleged.

"The defendants’ failure to institute any proactive policies intended to address the posting by others of copyright-infringing content on the website constituted and constitutes the defendants’ willful blindness to copyright infringements occurring on the website," the suit charged.

A spokesman for the Democratic Underground said the group had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

Also sued by Righthaven on Tuesday were Roman Sohor and Wayne Bellinger, whom Righthaven says are associated with the website www.losetheradio.net. Righthaven alleges a May 23 Review-Journal story about Las Vegas kiosk operators being extorted was posted on that website without authorization.

A message seeking comment was left with Sohor and Bellinger.

These bring to 98 the number of copyright infringement lawsuits Righthaven has filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas since March.