Blogger, websites sued by Righthaven over ‘TSA enhanced pat-down’ photo

Four website owners and a blogger are the defendants in four new copyright infringement lawsuits filed by Righthaven LLC of Las Vegas.

The new suits, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Colorado, all allege the same Denver Post "TSA enhanced pat-down" photo was posted on the defendant websites.

These bring to at least nine the number of lawsuits Righthaven has filed over the photo; and lift to 213 the number of lawsuits Righthaven has filed since March over Las Vegas Review-Journal and Denver Post material.

Righthaven's procedure is to detect online infringements of newspaper material, obtain copyrights to that material and then sue the alleged infringers.

The latest to be sued by Righthaven are:

• CustomerThink Corp., Robert Thompson and Joseph Michelli, Ph. D.; allegedly associated with the website

Righthaven says Thompson is the CEO and editor in chief of CustomerThink and that Michelli "reproduced an unauthorized copy of the Righthaven-owned photograph ... on the website."

The post at issue, which was still online Monday, said a CustomerThink blog post by Michelli was re-posted with his permission from Michelli's blog.

The blog post also included the Denver Post photo at issue in the Righthaven lawsuits.

The post said Michelli is an organizational consultant and the "chief experience officer" of The Michelli Experience, authored "The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company" and authored "The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary."

"The defendants knew, or reasonably should have known, that websites, such as the (CustomerThink) website, are and were at all times relevant to this lawsuit, the habitual subject of postings by others of copyright-infringing content," Righthaven's lawsuit charged.

"CustomerThink and Mr. Thompson did not institute any proactive policy of precluding, or attempting to preclude, the postings by others of copyright-infringing content on the website," Righthaven alleged.

They also didn't monitor for such postings or have a proactive policy of deleting such copyright-infringing content, the lawsuit said.

This "constitutes CustomerThink and Mr. Thompson’s willful blindness to copyright infringements occurring on the website," the lawsuit charges.

• Mt Rock Church, Robert Edwards and John Pozniak; allegedly associated with the website

• William Szirbik and Thomas C. Royce, allegedly associated with

• Tripso Inc., and Charles Leocha; allegedly associated with

Requests for comment were left with the defendants.

As usual, Righthaven seeks damages of $150,000 apiece in the new suits and forfeiture of the defendants’ website domain names.

Separately, a Nevada judge on Monday for a second time declined to dismiss one of Righthaven's longest-running lawsuits -- this one filed in June against New Hampshire website, serving the emergency medical technician community.

U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben denied's latest motion from Dec. 8 that the case be dismissed.

During an Oct. 20 hearing on the motion to dismiss, McKibben had also denied to dismiss the suit so evidence-gathering in the form of discovery could proceed.

After that, both sides accused the other of failing to conduct discovery.

"It is apparent from the renewed motion to dismiss, response and reply that the parties did not conduct limited discovery. As the posture of this case has not changed since the hearing on defendants' motion to dismiss, the court hereby denies the defendants' renewed motion to dismiss," McKibben wrote in his ruling Monday.

"This will not preclude the defendants from renewing their arguments in a motion for summary judgment after the completion of discovery," McKibben wrote., owned by Christopher Malley, claims it didn't willfully infringe on Righthaven's copyright to a Review-Journal story since the story at issue was posted by a third party message-board poster, "Dust Devil."

Malley's attorneys have complained the lawsuit is "nothing more than a bad faith attempt to shake Mr. Malley down for a settlement."

Attorneys for Righthaven, however, argued this month that during the October hearing McKibben "undoubtedly determined that Righthaven had established standing sufficient to bring the copyright infringement claims in this action. Defendants, on the other hand, had failed to offer any extrinsic evidence to rebut the presumptions afforded to Righthaven under the Copyright Act."

"In the intervening 45 days during which the parties were authorized to conduct discovery, defendants, the parties who lost the motion to dismiss, did absolutely nothing," Righthaven's attorneys charged.

As existing and new cases progress, Righthaven observers are waiting for judges to rule on higher-profile cases that could set precedents in copyright law.

One judge is considering -- in a case involving the Center for Intercultural Organizing -- dismissing the lawsuit on fair use grounds.

Other judges are reviewing counterclaims filed by four defendants against Righthaven charging its lawsuits are an abuse of the court system.

Those charges are denied by Righthaven, which says the suits are necessary to deal with widespread online infringement of newspaper stories, columns, editorials, graphics and photos.