Righthaven appeals loss of “fair-use” ruling, settles with Drudge


Eric Blair
Activist Post

In October, 2010 copyright infringement extortionist, Righthaven, received its first judgment to date among their 238 lawsuits against websites and blogs; the case was dismissed on “fair-use” grounds. The defendant re-posted the first 8 sentences of a 30-sentence article originally published by Righthaven’s partner Las Vegas Review-Journal.  U.S. District Judge, Larry Hicks, who granted the motion, explained his decision:

‘The court finds that this use weighs in favor of a fair use of the copyrighted material,’ Hicks wrote in his ruling, citing case law stating ‘copying only as much as necessary in a greater work (story) to provide relevant factual information weighs in favor of fair use.’

Although this decision is potentially great news for all blogs and sites who aggregate information, Righthaven announced this week that it will appeal the decision.  Steve Green of the Las Vegas Sun quoted Righthaven lawyers as saying, “Righthaven strenuously maintains the court erred in dismissing Mr. Nelson from this case by finding his infringing conduct was protected by the defense of fair use.”

However, Green reported that the dismissal of the case has caused “Righthaven to alter its litigation strategy to limit its lawsuits to entire stories, photos and graphics — rather than partial stories — that were reproduced without authorization.”  Yet, even lawsuits against websites that posted full articles are looking as though they may also be dismissed.

Righthaven, until somewhat recently, has been going after small local blogs.  But in December they stepped up to the big leagues to take on alternative news giant Matt Drudge of the DrudgeReport.com. Righthaven’s lawsuit claimed that Drudge misused a Denver Post copyrighted photo, along with a link to a story about airport security on the Las Vegas Review-Journal website. Righthaven was seeking copyright infringement damages of $150,000 and forfeiture of his domain name, which is valued in the tens of millions.

Drudge, who never answered the complaint in court, settled his case with Righthaven this week.  The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but are estimated to be far less than the extortion amount. Steve Green, again with excellent reporting, wrote:

‘Righthaven and defendants have agreed to settle the matter by a written agreement,’ Righthaven said in a court filing closing the case. 

Righthaven typically settles its lawsuits for less than five figures and allows defendants to keep their domain names. 

Defense attorneys and critics say Righthaven’s standard lawsuit demand for forfeiture of domain names has no basis in U.S. copyright law and is included in the lawsuits to pressure defendants to settle.

Settling claims for less than five figures seems to be make very little financial sense.  It seems that Righthaven’s ultimate goal is to net one precedent for which they’ll be able to expand their operations.  However, the recent case dismissal, and Righthaven’s commitment to back off defendants that only post partial material, appears to more clearly define the copyright limits for websites, which is good news for bloggers who wish to play by the rules.  For that, we can thank the hard work of attorneys from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Before “fair-use” bloggers get their hopes up too high, it’s important to note that Righthaven is 50% owned by billionaire Warren Stephens.  Stephens made his fortune servicing the financial needs of some of the most nefarious globalists and organizations, from David Rockefeller and the Walton family (owners of Wal-Mart), to Monsanto, Tyson Foods, and the Council on Foreign Relations.  In other words, when there is an agenda backed by deep pockets, watch out!

As evidence of the advancing agenda, Congress seeks to re-introduce the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which would empower the U.S. Department of Justice to shut down, or block access to, websites found to be dedicated to infringing activities. The legislation would allow for domains to be “blacklisted” without due process.  It is widely viewed as even more tyrannical than the Internet “Kill Switch” legislation sought for cyber security.

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