Righthaven sues Las Vegas-based Citadel Broadcasting over caption contest

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Media giant Citadel Broadcasting Co. was hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit Thursday after one of its radio station websites conducted a caption contest for a Denver Post "TSA enhanced pat-down" photo.

Citadel, based in Las Vegas, was sued in U.S. District Court for Nevada by Righthaven LLC, also of Las Vegas.

Righthaven, which sues over Las Vegas Review-Journal and Denver Post material, complained in its lawsuit that 630WPRO radio talk show host Matt Allen in Providence, R.I., posted the photo without authorization on the station website.

It's unclear if Righthaven or the Denver Post have asked Citadel or 630WPRO to remove the photo from the website -- the photo at issue remained posted with the caption contest information on the 630WPRO home page Friday.

The Nov. 18 photo showing a passenger being patted down at Denver International Airport was distributed to media outlets by The Associated Press and some observers say it has become a symbol of controversial enhanced TSA screening procedures.

Some Righthaven defendants have said they had no idea the photo came from the Denver Post after it went viral and was distributed all over the web, while at least one defendant is complaining the Denver Post urges people to share its material online with online-sharing tools and then sues them for doing so.

The Post, however, has an explicit copyright warning stating its material can't be reproduced in full.

None of the lawsuits over the photo have advanced to the stage where a judge has ruled on their validity and Righthaven attorneys have not yet responded to the defenses offered by defendants.

Righthaven has now sued at least 35 website operators over the photo including white supremacist David Duke and Drudge Report owner Matt Drudge, who settled this month with Righthaven under undisclosed terms.

Righthaven, as usual, demands $150,000 in damages in Thursday's lawsuit against Citadel and co-defendant Allen. Righthaven is also asking the Nevada court to seize the 630WPRO website domain name and transfer it to Righthaven.

"The defendants distributed, and continue to distribute, an unauthorized reproduction of the work (photo) on the website, in derogation of Righthaven’s exclusive rights," Righthaven charged in its suit.

Messages for comment were left with Citadel and Allen.

Thursday's suit lifts to at least 239 the number of copyright infringement lawsuits Righthaven has filed since March in federal courts in Nevada, Colorado and South Carolina.