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Nothing suits them like a suit!
March 29, 2011 12:40 PM   Subscribe

For over a year now, Righthaven has been suing bloggers, news websites, and now even journalists covering Righthaven for reproducing, in full or part, articles and pictures from newspapers that it purchases the copyright for. But it might be starting to backfire.

Generally, on the internet when you notice your copyrighted material posted elsewhere without permission, an email or phone call is sufficient to have it removed or edited down to a fair use excerpt. Beyond that, a take-down request can be used to have the user's ISP/hosting provider to take down the content.

Righthaven skips all of that, suing the websites or individuals involved without any prior notice or warning, then sending a settlement offer for a few thousand dollars, which is likely to be less than the cost of litigation. The most recent tally shows they've sued over 250 people over copyrighted content.

Recent rulings by judges presiding over two cases show that, even if full articles were posted, they still might fall under fair use, striking a blow against the copyright protection for newspapers and other publications it has been fighting to defend.
posted by SirOmega (18 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The first Google search result for Righthaven turns up this unofficial list of all Righthaven lawsuits and news coverage. The third is Righthaven Victims blog, which has a new post on Righthaven going after the use of thumbnail images. Sleazy, it seems contrary to "social media" support, where sites like Facebook often include (or link to) a thumbnail image of a linked page.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:59 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Previously.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:07 PM on March 29, 2011


This is very similar to the Getty/Masterfile Images Extortion Letter scheme that those stock image companies run. They identify that you're using their image, and send a settlement demand letter, stating that for the low price of $8,000 or thereabouts, they'll grant you a retroactive license to make up for your malfeasance, no matter how little your site is trafficked, or if you had anything to do with the selection of images. (A lot of people have gotten burned using templates from template sites or having overseas companies do the design without clearing the images.)

Instead of a takedown notice or discussion, it's straight to demand letter with threat of lawsuit.
posted by disillusioned at 1:23 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can this really be a remotely profitable endeavor if they are spending resources actually fighting this many lawsuits in court? The RIAA's settlement demand letter program isn't exactly a huge moneymaker, but their goal there is really to publicly promote their antipiracy campaign. Here, all these cases don't really make a big public statement to discourage copying of content from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post. NORMAL apparently settled a case where they reproduced an entire article for $2,185, and I'd imagine that a cat blogger is settling for a whole lot less. It takes an awful lot of couple thousand dollar or less settlements to pay for an appeal to the 9th Circuit.

Their demand that the court "lock the Drudge Report Domain and transfer control of the Drudge Report Domain to Righthaven" because Drudge used a single Denver Post photo without permission or payment is mind boggling. I suppose by that logic I should lose my house, or at least my TV and computer, if I watch a single pirated movie inside. If I have an at-fault auto accident does the person I hit get to take my car too?

On the other hand, Drudge certainly should know better than to use news photographs without a license absent a compelling claim of fair use and/or a breaking news situation, and a US Top 100 website can afford to buy appropriate rights for a featured photo. But by making such absurd demands and going after people they have no business suing, any awareness of this not completely unreasonable point is completely shattered.
posted by zachlipton at 1:29 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can this really be a remotely profitable endeavor if they are spending resources actually fighting this many lawsuits in court? The RIAA's settlement demand letter program isn't exactly a huge moneymaker, but their goal there is really to publicly promote their antipiracy campaign.

The RIAA lawsuit/settlement scheme actually lost $62M dollars throughout its course - $64M was spent and only $1.4M collected. The RIAA no longer sues people in this fashion for obvious reasons.
posted by SirOmega at 1:35 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is very similar to the Getty/Masterfile Images Extortion Letter scheme that those stock image companies run.

This is worse. A lot of people have been burnt in the Getty/Masterfile letters, but at least there it's pretty hard to make a reasonable claim of fair use. Unknowing infringement or relying on a untrusted third-party yes, but most of those situations at least involve a use of the photo that likely isn't permitted without a license under copyright law. Here, a lot of these extortion attempts are going out to people who really do have at least a creditable claim of fair use as the courts have ruled in at least two of their suits so far, such as a non-profit organization posting a short newspaper article, or worse yet–a portion of an article, which directly relates to the organization's work.

The RIAA lawsuit/settlement scheme actually lost $62M dollars throughout its course - $64M was spent and only $1.4M collected. The RIAA no longer sues people in this fashion for obvious reasons.

Ok, but they arguably caused a lot more people to purchase music legally instead of pirating it as a result of the scheme. Some if not all of that loss can be justified as an antipiracy publicity campaign, no? They also put a lot of that money into fighting entire P2P networks and applications, which probably had a much greater effect than the individual letters. Righthaven's extortion doesn't have any public relations effect because most people have never heard of them, and those who have just vow to have nothing to do with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post.
posted by zachlipton at 1:45 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Similar, also, to a new crop of peer-to-peer (BitTorrent) movie downloading suits. The EFF is doing good work against both Righthaven and the BitTorrent plaintiffs, but it's an uphill battle because the plaintiffs are (probably) making a fair bit of coin at it (in contrast to the disastrous RIAA suits).

I'm working on some of the movie-downloading suits, and wrote [SELF LINK:this article:/SELF LINK] about them.
posted by spacewrench at 2:06 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know what would be awesome? A class action suit against RightHaven on behalf of all their victims.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:09 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anybody know if there's any chance of getting Nathan myr-what-his-face to pay court costs for a losing suit also? Or is there some reason that wouldn't apply in patent cases?
posted by Diablevert at 2:44 PM on March 29, 2011


The EFF is countersuing Righthaven on behalf of Democratic Underground to get their legal fees back. That could do some real damage.
posted by ofthestrait at 3:43 PM on March 29, 2011


The RIAA lawsuit/settlement scheme actually lost $62M dollars throughout its course - $64M was spent and only $1.4M collected. The RIAA no longer sues people in this fashion for obvious reasons.
Actually other groups have actually been trying to make a profit off that model. Instead of suing people who don't settle, they... don't. So they collect the settlements for rather low cost. ACS:Law, which got destroyed by Anonymous was one company doing that (and they were accusing people of downloading porn, making people more likely to settle)
posted by delmoi at 4:58 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gotta love their website.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:38 PM on March 29, 2011


So they collect the settlements for rather low cost. ACS:Law, which got destroyed by Anonymous was one company doing that (and they were accusing people of downloading porn, making people more likely to settle)

Last fall my mother got notice from her ISP that a law firm had subpoenaed her IP address. She called me and I got a hold of the ISP's lawyer and discovered my mom's IP was being sued for illegally downloading porn. Thankfully the ISP refused to comply with the subpoena and hand over my mom's information. If I remember correctly the judge threw out the whole case back in December but my mom was ready to go to court as her only internet usage is e-mail, facebook and Bookworm.
posted by the_artificer at 5:43 PM on March 29, 2011


Heh. Their headquarters is in "Conquistador Business Park."
posted by Sys Rq at 5:43 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok, but they arguably caused a lot more people to purchase music legally instead of pirating it as a result of the scheme.

I think when you argue without any evidence it's called 'hoping'.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:24 PM on March 29, 2011


You know what would be awesome? A class action suit against RightHaven on behalf of all their victims.

What would be awesome would be if our fucking country fixed its copyright system in order to prevent stuff like this happening in the first place! For some reason it doesn't seem to be on lawmakers' radar, hmm.
posted by JHarris at 10:04 PM on March 29, 2011


Diablevert, perhaps Intellectual Ventures' legal costs are partially off-set by Myhrvold's cookbook, whose selling price is a mere $625?

I've been burned by Getty before in a similar instance and have much empathy for those who battle in the courtroom over things like this because, say, an ad agency from 2005 fucked up on tagging images that were rights-managed with an expiration date... or something similar...and never turned over the original file paperwork and licensing agreements after their services were no longer required... grumble grumble.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:53 PM on March 30, 2011


"A newly unsealed document reveals the master agreement behind the Righthaven sue-'em-all copyright litigation factory. Defense lawyers say that Righthaven doesn't actually have the right to sue, and a judge is furious at Righthaven shenanigans." : Ars Technica
posted by crunchland at 8:56 PM on April 18, 2011


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