Righthaven settles 2 lawsuits over R-J story copyrights

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Righthaven LLC, the Las Vegas company suing website operators over copyright infringements involving Las Vegas Review-Journal stories, has reached settlements with at least two more defendants.

Righthaven through Friday had sued at least 124 companies and individuals since March in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas.

Righthaven is a company that detects online infringements of Las Vegas Review-Journal stories, obtains copyrights for those stories and then sues the alleged infringers over the retroactive infringements.

The owner of the Review-Journal, Stephens Media LLC, has participated in the lawsuits by investing in Righthaven and providing the copyrights at issue in the suits.

Righthaven is led by CEO Steven Gibson, a Las Vegas attorney with the Detroit-based law firm Dickinson Wright PLLC.

Court records and defendants' statements show at least 30 of the suits have been settled. Terms of the settlements are usually confidential, with $5,000 being the highest publicly-reported settlement.

Of the contested cases, none have advanced to the point where a trial is scheduled or to the point that a judge could decide the issues on motions for summary judgment. Righthaven prevailed in the only rulings so far on two motions for dismissal when judges rejected those motions in separate cases.

The latest Righthaven settlements involved:

--A suit against Steven Gilbert in New York, the operator of the Sweetness & Light political website.

"In view of our economic circumstances, as well as other factors, we have subsequently decided that the better part of valor would be to settle with Righthaven. And a settlement agreement with them has been executed," Gilbert said Saturday in a note on his website announcing the settlement.

"Because of the confidentiality requirements of that agreement we cannot discuss the details of the settlement. But we can say that your generous donations helped to cover more than a third of our costs. For which we are eternally grateful.

"Nevertheless, if anyone would like a refund for their contributions to the cause for whatever reason, they will be quickly and cheerfully refunded," Gilbert wrote on his website.

When a reader asked Gilbert, "What’s to keep them from tapping you again and again?," Gilbert wrote: "I have blocked all of their current holdings from my various browsers and they are blacklisted on S&L. I would advise anyone with an Internet site to do the same."

Gilbert had been sued over Review-Journal stories allegedly posted on his website on Nevada's U.S. Senate race and a Tea Party rally in Searchlight attended by Sarah Palin.

-- A suit against Vegas Backstage Access and Mike Stotts, who are associated with the website and were accused of posting a Review-Journal story about disputes between magician Scarlett — Princess of Magic (Rachel Jessee) and her manager. Stotts hasn't commented on the lawsuit or the settlement.

-- Other cases closed through last week were suits against Kirvin Doak Communications, Tuff-N-Uff Productions, the American Society of Safety Engineers, Pregame LLC, Mary Santilli, the Off Shore Gaming Association, Jack D. Wooden, Pennwell Corp.,, Brian Lojeck, Commerce CRG Utah and John Thomas.

Also closed were cases against the operators of the site, Insite Security, Hyde Park Communications, Honor Inc., Thomas Finn IV, Odds On Racing, Ronald Gollner, Portside Inc.,, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Real Money Sports, Enterprise Funding, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Matt Farnham, MoneyReign Inc. and Mark Chavez.

This list does not include cases with multiple defendants where some of the defendants have settled, but the cases remain open because other defendants have not settled.

Pregame LLC said in a statement last week that the case involved copyrighted material that may have been posted on the public chat page at

"Pregame LLC responded proactively making sure that the subject content was removed and promptly addressing Righthaven’s concerns. The parties have amicably resolved the matter with no determinations of wrongdoing by either party," the company said.

But company officials didn't respond when asked if PreGame had agreed to pay money to Righthaven to settle the dispute.

Separately, Righthaven and the Review-Journal received more national media attention.

Writing at Las Vegas freelance writer Steve Friess noted Righthaven had sued U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle and asked: "Must Nevada's largest paper now include a passage in every news story it does on Angle's race against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid acknowledging that its owners have sued her?"

And writing at the Fast Company website, Kit Eaton asked: "Think the newspaper industry is a dinosaur?"

"Well, in some cases where it violently savages smaller prey for its own bloodthirsty efforts at survival, you're probably right (we're talking about you, Righthaven)," Eaton wrote.

Another attorney, in the meantime, weighed in on Righthaven's standard lawsuit demand that defendants' website domain names be forfeited to Righthaven.

Domain name claims have nothing to do with copyright law and everything to do with trademark law, attorney Joy Butler in Washington, D.C., wrote on her blog Guide Through the Legal Jungle.

"In order to succeed in taking someone’s domain name under any of those theories, Righthaven must demonstrate that the website’s domain name is the same as or confusingly similar to a trademark in which Righthaven has rights. In the Righthaven complaints I’ve read, Righthaven makes no mention of any trademarks it seeks to protect," Butler wrote.

"I agree with attorney Evan Brown that Righthaven’s pursuit of domain names makes no legal sense. It may have some Machiavellian strategic sense by serving as an additional incentive for the website owner to settle quickly by paying Righthaven a few thousand dollars," she wrote.

Gibson, at Righthaven, however, has argued that website domain names are an asset that could be seized by Righthaven should a defendant stop infringing or have insufficient assets to pay a judgment.