R-J mob source hit with copyright suit

Former mob enforcer turned government witness Anthony Fiato over the years has been the subject of a book by Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith and a source for Smith's news columns.

Now Fiato is being sued for copyright infringement after Review-Journal reports about the mob in Las Vegas allegedly were posted online on Fiato's personal blog site.

Fiato was sued in federal court in Las Vegas on Monday by Righthaven LLC, a company that has been purchasing copyrights to R-J stories from the R-J's owner, Stephens Media LLC, and then suing alleged infringers of those rights.

Fiato said he was surprised to learn of the lawsuit, since he had been unaware of any concern about him posting R-J stories on his website. Fiato learned about the suit because he was contacted for comment by the Las Vegas Sun.

"I’m not concerned about it. It sounds like someone made a mistake,’’ he said, noting his assistance with Smith’s book and in providing information to the Review-Journal.

Fiato said he lives at an undisclosed location as a relocated government witness.

Since March, Righthaven has filed at least 81 copyright lawsuits.

The complaint against Fiato alleges he is the registrant of a blog at the address af11.wordpress.com.

That blog, called "Hollywood goodfella'' and focusing on mob activity around the country, allegedly included posts of an R-J column by Jane Ann Morrison and an R-J story by Jeff German from May, both involving mafia activity in Las Vegas. Records indicate that on the blog posts, the R-J and Morrison were credited for the column, but only German was credited for the story.

Fiato, who goes by Anthony "Tony the Animal'' Fiato, was the subject of Smith's 1998 book "The Animal in Hollywood.''

Righthaven is seeking $75,000 in damages from Fiato. The demand for $75,000 is for statutory damages, or damages where plaintiffs don't have to show economic harm from copyright infringement.

"Righthaven is the owner of the copyright in the literary work (the column) entitled: `It’s not your dad’s Cosa Nostra in Las Vegas anymore,''' the lawsuit says.

"Mr. Fiato willfully copied, on an unauthorized basis, the Cosa Nostra work,'' Righthaven charged.

"The subject matter, at least in part, of the Cosa Nostra work ... is Las Vegas, Nevada-based mafia activity,'' the lawsuit alleges.

"Mr. Fiato knew that the ... infringement was and is of specific interest to Nevada residents,'' Righthaven alleged.

"Mr. Fiato knew that the Cosa Nostra work was originally published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal,'' Righthaven asserts.

This wasn't the only court action involving Righthaven in recent days.

Righthaven on Monday also sued Paula Bliss, identified as the registrant of the www.gamblingmojo.com website. A June 3 R-J story on Nevada regulators warning casinos not to do business with Internet gambling companies was posted on that site without authorization, the lawsuit says. Records show the R-J was credited as the source of the story.

"I have been using `AGA SmartBrief' articles and I always link back to the source. It was my understanding that articles could be used provided there was a link back,'' Bliss said Monday, adding she closed the blog portion of the website after learning of the lawsuit. "Apologies for my misunderstanding.''

The AGA SmartBrief is a daily collection of gaming industry news summaries issued by a company called SmartBrief in cooperation with the American Gaming Association. These news summaries include links to the sources of the news summaries, typically the R-J, the Las Vegas Sun, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, the Associated Press and other news organizations that cover gaming.

Also, a company running a website covering the horse and harness racing industry has agreed to settle a Righthaven copyright infringement lawsuit over its alleged unauthorized online posting of an R-J column.

In court papers filed last week, attorneys for Crete, Ill.-based Odds on Racing with the Reno office of the law firm Holland & Hart LLP denied the allegations of infringement and wrote the defendants' use of the column constituted fair use under the Copyright Act.

But court records also show the Odds On Racing attorneys offered to settle the case for $5,000, including costs and attorneys' fees, an offer accepted by Righthaven.

A request for comment was left with Odds On Racing's attorneys.

Steven Gibson, a Las Vegas attorney and Righthaven's CEO, said the $5,000 ``is not insignificant.''

He didn't disclose whether that amount is within the usual range of settlements being negotiated by Righthaven. The only other publicly disclosed settlement of a Righthaven lawsuit involved the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which agreed to pay $2,185.

Of the 81 lawsuits, about 30 have been resolved, Gibson said Monday.