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Righthaven: SANCTIONED…but how much?

Well, this result seemed almost inevitable. After all, who gets away with misleading a court? Right? But is the amount of the sanction sufficient? Righthaven was ordered to pay a measly $5,000. Is that amount really going to punish Righthaven in any significant way?

Righthaven LLC is a copyright holding company, founded in March 2010, which acquires the rights to newspaper content from its partner newspapers (most notably, Stephens Media, which owns the Las Vegas Review Journal). Upon finding that content has been copied to online sites without permission, Righthaven initiates litigation against the site owners, alleging copyright infringement.
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Righthaven’s Ba-aaaaack….but its Aim Falls Short

It seems Righthaven hasn’t been able to catch a break since my December 2010 post. Righthaven LLC is a copyright holding company founded in early 2010, which acquires newspaper content from its partner newspapers after finding that the content has been copied to online sites without permission, in order to engage in litigation against the site owners for copyright infringement.

Just last week, in a suit filed against Democratic Underground (“D.U.”), Righthaven sought damages because D.U. used four paragraphs of a 34 paragraph Las Vegas Review Journal article (recall that the Journal and its contents belong to Stephens Media). The post included a link to the full article, as well as citing the Journal.

U.S. District Court Judge Roger Hunt dismissed the lawsuit, holding that a “copyright owner [here, Stephens Media] could not assign a bare right to sue.” In addition, the court came down hard on Righthaven because it failed to advise, as required by law, that Stephens Media had a pecuniary interest in the lawsuits (Righthaven and Stephens Media were sharing the profits received from these lawsuits). Judge Hunt seemed disgusted with Righthaven’s behavior and gave Righthaven two weeks “to show cause … why [Righthaven] should not be sanctioned for this flagrant misrepresentation to the court.” Judge Hunt accused Righthaven of trying to “manufacture standing” in all of its cases. (Click here for the Court’s full decision.) Read the rest of this entry »

Bloggers Beware: Righthaven’s got its eye on you…

Whether you own a website where you allow blogs and comments to be posted, or if you are the blogger/poster, listen up.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Righthaven LLC, they are to the blogging world what editors are to the Law Review world…cite-checking and anti-plagiarism “proponents” (let’s call ‘em that, for argument’s sake). Righthaven’s been making quite a splash and has gained popularity among news chains since its coming into existence in the spring of 2010. According to David Kravets’ article, “Righthaven Expands Troll Operation With Newspaper Giant[1], Righthaven has filed over 180 lawsuits and has settled over 70 of them already. Its major suppliers of copyrighted material include Stephens Media (owners of Las Vegas Review-Journal), MediaNews Group (owners of San Jose Mercury News and the Denver Post), and WEHCO Media (owners of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Chattanooga Times Free Fress), to name a few.[2] Owned by Net Sortie Systems LLC and SI Content Monitor LLC, Righthaven is the brain-child of Las Vegas-based IP attorney, Steven Gibson.[3] Righthaven’s clients assign their rights in the content to Righthaven, who then sues for copyright infringement.[4]

In order to analyze the problems faced by the parties to such lawsuits, we’ll have to discuss the U.S. Copyright Act, as well as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).

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37 Downloads? That’ll be $27,500…How Does a Court Determine What to Charge?

This topic angers me. Fines for infringement under the Copyright Act range from $750 to $150,000 per infringement. That’s a wide spectrum! More disturbing is that the Act leaves the pricing decision in the hands of the judge, without any real guidelines for them to follow.

This week, a judge ordered Whitney Harper to pay $27,500 for illegally downloading 37 songs…I’ll do the math for you – that’s $750 a song, i.e., the minimum allowed. Earlier this year, Joel Tenenbaum was held liable for $675,000 for file sharing 30 songs – that’s $22,500 per song. It gets better. Nearly a year ago, Jammie Thomas-Rasset was ordered to pay $1.92 million by a jury for downloading 24 songs…$80,000 per download! How does the court conclude how much to, for lack of a better word, charge per song? Is it based on the popularity of the song? Does Lady Gaga or Jay-Z rank higher than Skid Row or Journey because the former are currently more mainstream?

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But I’m Innocent, I Swear! This Website Proves It!

Who would have thought a comment as innocent as “Just walked into work at Cozen O’Connor-Toronto…so much work to get done” could potentially cause you so much trouble?

I came across an article this weekend by Tracy Staedter, titled “I’m Not Home: Please Rob Me”. Ready to become paranoid? Read the article – it’s short and to the point. Ever send out Evites? How about prior tweets, MySpace posts, etc. inviting people to your place and including an address? Bingo! Better pack up and move quick!

The website causing havoc is www.PleaseRobMe.com. Check it out…make sure you aren’t on the site…then check again after every time you tweet, post, etc. Do you have the time to constantly check? Probably not. Should you? Probably. It may make you paranoid, but then again, shouldn’t you be? But should the creators of the website be blamed – legally, morally, ethically? Should they be held accountable for what you put out into the public realm? Can you sue for violation of your privacy rights? Do you really have an expectation of privacy in any of those posts? In an age where MySpace, Friendster and other social networking sites regularly have their records subpoenaed, why should anyone think that anything they post will be “private”? What piqued my curiosity even more was how this website could apply in the criminal or tort law application. Can this website be used to substantiate or corroborate an accused’s alibi – “Your Honor, look! I have proof that I wasn’t in the city when the crime occurred…I tweeted that I would be in Los Angeles!” Look, my knowledge of Canadian (or U.S., for that matter) Criminal Law/Procedure does not extend further than the 800 or so pages of textbooks I read while in law school. But surely this website can be put to more use than just what the creators intended. So long as a proper foundation is laid, and the purported evidence is relevant, it may be admitted, right? Something to definitely consider as a defense attorney.

The creators of the website claim the site is supposed to help us…to open our eyes to the evil out in the world. Call me crazy, but perhaps a simple email addressed to me would have been more appreciated…though it leaves one wondering if such a logical course of action would have been as effective.

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