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How to keep from being sued
August 18, 2010 8:54 PM   Subscribe

How to avoid visiting any Stephens Group publications even by accident, if you use FireFox. The Stephens Group (AKA Righthaven) has been suing bloggers who link to and quote any of their publications' web sites. (Such as.) So now there's a FireFox plugin you can use to make sure you don't visit any of them. Use it in good health.
posted by Chocolate Pickle (32 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Here's some background.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:02 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why this is oblivion, nor are they out of it.
posted by kipmanley at 9:09 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is a kind of interesting story. For those of us that haven't hear of Stephens Group prior I wish the FPP had focused more on the history of the suspect group and WHY one should consider adding them to a block list rather than the main link being told "do this!" and the supporting link not even describing exactly why they are being sued. For all I know "The Armed Citizen" may have cut-and-pasted vast swaths of copyright text... or they may have quoted a sentence, it makes a big difference. It doesn't help that that article lists as a further link Does Righthaven’s Founder Have Ties to Obama?.

If you are advocating for a specific action don't make your readers have to do all the work why they should do that action.
posted by edgeways at 9:12 PM on August 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's Stephens Media LLC, not related to Stephens Media Group.

Also, this is a weird pose for an official portrait.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:14 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


1) Create sock puppet
2) Post content on unsuspecting site's forum
3) ???
4) Profit!
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:25 PM on August 18, 2010


edgeways, the Techdirt link in the first comment is a great explanation of why folks should care.
posted by mediareport at 9:30 PM on August 18, 2010


Also, this is a weird pose for an official portrait.

HA! I'm basically touching my johnson in my official portrait! Betcha won't want to link to this one!
posted by emilyd22222 at 9:33 PM on August 18, 2010


He was told to pose that way by his pubicist.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:40 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Right wing douches suing right wing douches.

Note, Clayton Cramer, of The Armed Citizen, was a notorious Usenet troll back in the 1980s. One quote about him: "Clayton seems to have made it his personal crusade to move into relatively sane groups and turn them into stinking hells of political flame by starting an anti-homosexual flame war. "
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 9:41 PM on August 18, 2010


Not sure how they think this is going to work, but it certainly is a novel business model.
posted by Clamwacker at 9:49 PM on August 18, 2010


So it looks like they are suing sites where users post snippets of their copyrighted material?

Mmmmkay. How about someone post some of Scientology's NOTs technologies on one of their sites, and then sic Helena Kobrin on them?
posted by Xoebe at 9:54 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Right wing douches suing right wing douches.

They also sued the Democratic Underground, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Domains by Proxy, and just a whole lot of other people.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:30 PM on August 18, 2010


They've filed 96 suits since March this year. The Las Vegas Sun article I linked to has a link to about 15 of their previous articles.

First, in most cases it's the full article text that gets someone sued. 100% of the text - that is illegal. Second is that they're not using the DMCA at all for takedown notices, just straight to the lawsuit with no warning, which IMO is bad faith but I doubt a court would see it that way. They're using a similar tactic to the RIAA - offering a settlement upfront or threatening the maximum statutory fine.
posted by SirOmega at 10:56 PM on August 18, 2010


To help with everyone's scorecards:

Stephens Media is a client of of Righthaven (CEO Steve Gibson). I should have pointed out that my "weird pose" link goes to a Wired article on the activities of Righthaven and Stephens Media.

Clayton Cramer (his blog is Chocolate Pickle's first link) is involved with The Armed Citizen (Chocolate Pickle's second link), a gun-rights advocacy group. He's listed first on their about page. Perhaps he's one of the owners? The Armed Citizen was hit with a lawsuit from Righthaven for posting content from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a Stephens Media holding. (It's not the Journal-Review, as the Armed Citizen article puts it several times. Cramer also has Stephens Media as "Stephens Group" in his blog post.)

Right wing douches suing right wing douches.

Is there any indication of Steve Gibson's political leanings, beside the odd name of his firm? Like edgeways said, the Armed Citizen article has a link that suggests he has ties to Obama, because he worked at the same law firm the Obamas worked at. That's hardly conclusive, although of course there aren't any conservative lawyers in Chicago, so maybe they're on to something.

Given that Cramer can't even get straight the names of the people he's fighting, I'm not sure I want to let him blacklist media sites for me. No thanks.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:02 PM on August 18, 2010


There are times when I don't necessarily require Firefox extensions to protect me from certain things ... in the same sense as not needing to wear a reserve parachute if I have no intention of leaving the ground in the first place.

That said, I enjoyed this post.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:03 PM on August 18, 2010


1) Create sock puppet
2) Post content on unsuspecting site's forum
3) ???
Sue the site for copyright infringement
4) Profit!

Which they could do anywhere... INCLUDING HERE. And this post may be enough to put MetaFilter on its radar, if they are indeed mixing fraud with extortion.

Or, even worse, anybody with a grudge against a website could plant copied content in multiple comments and let Righthaven do the dirty work for them.

This may be the scariest thing I have seen any evil, greedy assholes come up with in the history of the internet.

Seriously, Matt, you may need to set up a way to tag long comments and google the text for any matching patterns. And put tighter controls on new members. But if the Righthaven bastards are setting up deals with various publishers, it may get very hard to identify copied material. How many ranting comments here on a hot topic could be the exact same words as an op-ed at the Podunk Daily Dunktank?
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:20 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not sure how they think this is going to work, but it certainly is a novel business model.

It isn't novel for large corporations to bully people into paying relatively small sums out of court rather than fight expensive legal battles they might lose anyway. Along with finding ways for corporations to avoid paying taxes and avoid taking responsibility for bad products, sending scary shot-across-the-bow letters is pretty much what corporate lawyers do best.
posted by pracowity at 11:22 PM on August 18, 2010


I hope someone refers them to Arkell v. Pressdram.
posted by chavenet at 12:06 AM on August 19, 2010


HA! I'm basically touching my johnson in my official portrait! Betcha won't want to link to this one!

Betcha? Does that happen to be a Levi Johnson you're touching?
posted by hell toupee at 5:28 AM on August 19, 2010


Lawyers with a higher standard: Thomas Dunlap
posted by Shike at 7:52 AM on August 19, 2010


Upon reading the Wired link my first thought was that Righthaven dude would never survive the Old Lady Job Justification Hearings
posted by jtron at 8:07 AM on August 19, 2010


"Seriously, Matt, you may need to set up a way to tag long comments and google the text for any matching patterns. And put tighter controls on new members."

Like every one of us wouldn't chip in a ten-spot to help pay for MeFi's legal defense if it happened. "All posts are © their original authors" is enough for me to feel confident Matt would win. These assholes are confident Matt would win, too. But they're even more confident that Matt and most other website owners will not be willing to pay the legal fees to do so.

We really need a "loser pays" clause for copyright infringement cases so assholes like this can't continue to make money by simply repeatedly filing frivolous suits.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:19 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


We really need a "loser pays"

This. Everywhere. The tort lawyers are to the Democrats what the tea party is to the Republicans: the crazy shitheads whose greedy insanity overwhelms the few good points they have to make and does nothing but give talking points to the other side.
posted by umberto at 9:37 AM on August 19, 2010


posted by caution live frogs We really need a "loser pays" clause

No, we absolutely do not.
posted by mattdidthat at 9:44 AM on August 19, 2010


No, we absolutely do not.
Genuine question - I'm not a law type - but why not, if it was sufficiently limited?
posted by fermezporte at 10:18 AM on August 19, 2010


Because then the poor everyman whose toothbrush turned out to be made entirely of poison wouldn't have the nerve or wherewithal to sue EvilCorp for making a bad product cause EvilCorp, utilizing its EvilDeepPockets could just build the legal expense up until the very possibility of losing would keep people away. And then rich guys with mustaches would twirl them and make unsafe horrible things and foist them upon a public denuded of their ability to legally defend themselves, etc. blahblahblah... So now, EvilCorp threatens to sue you for an amount slightly less than defending yourself in court would cost. And so rich guys with mustaches twirl them and etc...

It always ends up with rich guys twirling their mustaches and walking away laughing. That's just the game. I believe every other western democracy --that is the thing we're killing everyone around the globe to perpetrate, correct?-- uses the loser pays strategy and --while they have other problems-- I think opportunistic serial lawsuits are not among them. But ianal.
posted by umberto at 11:25 AM on August 19, 2010


This. Everywhere. The tort lawyers are to the Democrats what the tea party is to the Republicans: the crazy shitheads whose greedy insanity overwhelms the few good points they have to make and does nothing but give talking points to the other side.

Uhh, dude? How does tort lawyer equal Democrat? (For that matter how does tort lawyer equal Republican, or Tea Party, or any political group?)
posted by aspo at 11:26 AM on August 19, 2010


Huh? Tort reform is split-down-the-middle partisan issue, pretty much. Old chart, I dug up real fast, but it gives the flavor of how things are normally divided.

Btw, I make no case for the bill in question in the chart, don't know what it is. But in any vote about malpractice or tort reform, this is how the voting will break down.
posted by umberto at 11:44 AM on August 19, 2010


That's because "tort reform" is really just a nicer way of saying change tort law so that corporations can still sue people into the poor house but no longer have to worry about any serious penalty for behaving badly. The tort reform you are talking about wouldn't change this case one iota.
posted by aspo at 12:05 PM on August 19, 2010


Maybe it's a way of saying change tort law so corporations can't hassle and blackmail people by threatening to sue them into the poorhouse without any serious penalty for behaving badly. I thought saying what you were going to say ahead of time would keep the obvious trial lawyer's talking point from being reiterated, but oh well.

Your fierce anti-corporate stand, though, seems to enhance the idea that those calling for reform tend to be conservative, pro-corporate Rs and those opposed tend to be anti-corporate Ds. You are a fierce and combative agree-er.
posted by umberto at 2:10 PM on August 19, 2010


How's this? You come up with a bit more than a simple graph of yes no votes (oh say the bill that was voted on) and then you can tell me all about how the Democratic party is just in the pocket of Big Tort.

Until then you just sound like any of the many idiots who like to bring up the McDonalds coffee suit as proof that our legal system is crazy and out of control.
posted by aspo at 3:17 PM on August 19, 2010


Well, to be fair in my mind a "loser pays" system would ONLY work if there was a requirement that Party A could not spend more than Party B did in legal fees. So, for example, if I am suing an auto manufacturer for negligence, if I can only afford to pay $5000 in legal fees, that's what they get to pay, too. If they spent more than me on defense, and I lost, I would only be liable to repay them the sum total of MY legal costs, not the sum total of theirs. If they lost, of course, they would pay MY fees, not hand my lawyer the same amount they spent on their defense.

But I felt like that was too much detail to include in my previous comment...
posted by caution live frogs at 11:22 AM on August 26, 2010


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