Amid new criticism, Righthaven sues additional website operators

Sun archives

Even as Righthaven LLC’s most powerful critic pounded on Righthaven’s lawsuit campaign Tuesday, the Las Vegas company sued three more website owners, claiming they infringed on copyrights by re-posting news stories and columns without authorization.

Righthaven, which sues website owners over allegedly unauthorized posts of Las Vegas Review-Journal stories, was criticized in a new report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in San Francisco, an advocate for privacy and freedom of speech on the Internet.

The EFF issued a report called “A Field Guide to Copyright Trolls” naming companies that find copyright infringements and then sue over them.

“Righthaven demands sums up to $150,000, and uses the threat of these out-of-proportion damages to push defendants into quick settlements,” said the EFF, whose attorneys on Monday filed a counterclaim against Righthaven and Review-Journal owner Stephens Media LLC in one of the Righthaven cases involving the Democratic Underground; and also issued a press release on the case.

“Some attorneys are advising bloggers to simply follow the rule laid down by the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s parent company and refrain from quoting anything more than the headline and first paragraph of news articles. Following this advice essentially allows a newspaper to decide what constitutes fair use, a term they are motivated to construe as narrowly as possible,” EFF said.

“Still others suggest that ‘the easiest way to avoid copyright infringement claims is to avoid copying,’ which is true only in the sense that the easiest way to avoid getting robbed is to have no possessions. Quoting, linking, aggregating all involve ‘copying’ and all are integral to any number of perfectly legal creative, often non-commercial, uses of copyrighted works. Indeed, these uses are what makes the Internet such a remarkable tool for fostering innovation,” the EFF said.

Righthaven and the Review-Journal declined comment Tuesday on the EFF’s counterclaim in the Democratic Underground case. But Review-Journal Publisher Sherman Frederick has said in blogs that the lawsuits are necessary to deter online infringement of Review-Journal material.

Also, Righthaven sued three website operators Tuesday, lifting its lawsuit total to at least 144 since March. The suits filed in federal court in Las Vegas were against:

• The Virginia Citizens Defense League Inc. and two officials there, Philip Van Cleave and Jim Snyder. The group’s website,, which focuses on gun rights, allegedly displayed a July 12 Review-Journal story about the Las Vegas police shooting of Erik Scott at a Costco.

An exhibit filed with the lawsuit indicated the Virginia Citizens Defense League site regularly posts stories from sources all over the world, including articles from Reuters, the New York Times, the Des Moines Register, Iowa’s Sioux City Journal, the Washington Examiner, the Orlando Sentinel, and the Associated Press.

The Review-Journal story appeared to be posted in its entirety by Van Cleave, VCDL president, with a note saying “Howard Roland emailed me this.” The post at the VCDL site credited the Review-Journal and included a link to the Review-Journal website.

• Don W. Joe, whom Righthaven says has a website called A June 28 Review-Journal column allegedly was posted on the site — in its entirety and crediting the Review-Journal — covering Asian-American politics.

Court records show that website, too, displayed numerous newspaper stories, including material from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Orange County Weekly, Delaware County (Pa.) Daily Times, International Business Times, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Northwest Asian Weekly, Associated Press and VOA News.

Asked about the lawsuit, Joe said in an e-mail: “The Las Vegas Review-Journal has not contacted me about the 6/28/10 story: “Head of Asian American Group gets politicians’ attention.” If it had, I would have removed the story from my website. Based on the (Righthaven background) article you sent me, ambulance chasing has evidently mutated into a different form in the 21st Century.”

• Larry Scott, who has a website covering the federal Department of Veterans Affairs called An Aug. 25 Review-Journal story about a Las Vegas man defrauding the VA was posted on the site, court records show. The post of the story on Scott’s website included credit to the Review-Journal and a link to its website.

That website includes this notice:

“FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such materials available in an effort to advance understanding of veterans’ issues. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed an interest in receiving the included information for educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.”

Messages for comment on the lawsuits were left with the Virginia Citizens Defense League and Scott.

As usual, Righthaven in the new lawsuits seeks damages of $150,000 apiece and forfeiture of the defendants’ website domain names.