Two more website operators sued for copyright infringement

Sun archives

Righthaven LLC sued two more website operators for copyright infringement Wednesday, charging they displayed Las Vegas Review-Journal stories without authorization.

The latest suits filed in U.S. District Court for Nevada name as defendants:

• An entity called Mr News Breaker and Ian Howells, whom Righthaven says have a website called An Aug. 2 Review-Journal story about a PBS pledge drive allegedly was displayed on that website without authorization.

• Bill Hyatt, whom Righthaven says is the registrant of the website, which is called “News for Everyone.” Hyatt allegedly copied and displayed — without gaining permission to do so — a Sept. 5 Review-Journal column called “FX’s manly man shows hold outsider appeal.”

Howells couldn’t be located for comment on the lawsuit. A message for comment was left with Hyatt.

These bring to at least 146 the number of lawsuits Righthaven has filed since it started its copyright litigation campaign in March.

Righthaven, as usual in its latest cases, seeks $150,000 apiece in damages from the defendants and asks the court to transfer control of their website domain names to Righthaven.

The Review-Journal and Righthaven say Righthaven is a technology company working to protect the copyrights of Stephens Media LLC, the owner of the Review-Journal.

Righthaven detects online infringements of Review-Journal stories, gains copyrights to those stories and then sues over the retroactive infringements.

An entity associated with the parent company of Stephens Media has invested in Righthaven and Stephens Media participates in the lawsuits by providing the copyrights upon which the lawsuits are based.

Defense attorneys and critics say Righthaven is running a shakedown operation involving frivolous, no-warning lawsuits and that uses the steep potential damages under copyright law, as well as the threat to seize website domain names, to prod defendants into settling.

The settlements are believed to be far less than Righthaven’s $75,000 and $150,000 damage claims. Many defendants say the settlements, which total at least 43, involved dollar amounts lower than what it would have cost them to have attorneys fight Righthaven.

Separately, the “Open Source/Free Software Community” website Groklaw has weighed in on the Righthaven cases.

Groklaw, which covers legal news related to technology issues and intellectual property issues, commented extensively on a ruling in which one of the federal judges assigned to the Righthaven cases agreed a defendant may have merit in arguing there was no copyright infringement because the Review-Journal encourages readers to share content online, purportedly providing an “implied license” for third parties to display its content without authorization.

“It will now cost Righthaven real money to pursue the litigation, which I gather from what I’ve read is exactly what they’d prefer not to have to do, since I gather from what I’ve read that their business model appears to be to pressure out-of-state defendants to just settle rather than fight, kind of like the RIAA’s (Recording Industry Association of America) strategy,” said the Groklaw post by founder Pamela Jones.

After that post, Righthaven and Stephens Media were hit with a counterclaim in another case — a development that likely will also add to their legal expenses while testing Righthaven’s litigation strategy.