Drudge Report owner sued by Righthaven

Las Vegas copyright enforcement company Righthaven LLC on Wednesday filed its second copyright infringement lawsuit over Denver Post material, this time suing a big target: Drudge Report operator Matt Drudge.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for Nevada, charges a Nov. 18 Denver Post "illustration" called "Transportation Security Administration agents perform enhanced pat-downs" was posted without authorization the same day on the Drudge Report website as well as the drudgereportarchives.com site.

A court exhibit, however, indicates the illustration is actually a Denver Post photograph of a TSA officer patting down a passenger at Denver International Airport. Righthaven usually sues over unauthorized online postings of news stories, columns and editorials. Lately it has sued over alleged infringements involving graphics and, now, a photograph.

"Mr. Drudge has willfully engaged in the copyright infringement of the work," Wednesday's lawsuit charges.

A message for comment was left with Drudge, who was sued personally, as well as codefendant drudgereportarchives.com.

Righthaven since March has now filed at least 181 copyright infringement lawsuits against website operators and bloggers. It usually sues over Las Vegas Review-Journal material. An affiliate of Stephens Media LLC, owner of the Review-Journal, is an investor in Righthaven. Last week, Righthaven started suing over Denver Post material.

Righthaven finds online infringements, obtains copyrights to the infringed material and then sues the alleged infringers on a retroactive basis. Righthaven and Stephens Media have said the lawsuits are necessary to protect the newspaper industry's copyrights, but critics call the no-warning lawsuits frivolous and part of a settlement shakedown campaign.

A court exhibit indicates Righthaven on Wednesday applied with the U.S. Copyright Office to register its rights in the Denver Post photograph of the TSA pat-down and that it obtained rights to the photo from Denver Post owner Media News Group Inc., which also spells its name MediaNews Group.

As for the drudgereportarchives.com site, it says: "Matt Drudge does not own, operate or maintain this archive site. He is not responsible for it in any way."

And Righthaven says in its lawsuit "DrudgeReportArchives is, and has been at all times relevant to this lawsuit, an entity of unknown origin and nature."

Nevertheless, Righthaven charged in the lawsuit: "At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Mr. Drudge has been and is a direct financial beneficiary of the Drudge Archives website."

"DrudgeReportArchives has displayed and/or archived, and continues to display and/or archive ... all of the electronic content and embedded hyperlinks originally posted and/or displayed by Mr. Drudge on the Drudge Report website," Righthaven's suit charges. "At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Mr. Drudge has permitted and permits the electronic content (including ... all embedded hyperlinks and interactive features) ultimately posted and/or displayed on the Drudge Archives website."

As in most of its recent lawsuits, Righthaven seeks in Wednesday's lawsuit damages of $150,000 as well as forfeiture to Righthaven of the drudgereport.com and drudgereportarchives.com website domain names.