5 more suits filed over alleged R-J copyright violations

Righthaven LLC, the company suing website operators for infringing on copyrighted Las Vegas Review-Journal stories, filed five more lawsuits this week in federal court in Las Vegas.

The company has now filed at least 69 lawsuits since March.

The latest suits were against:

--Stacy Nason of Baton Rouge, La., and Breakdown of America, alleged operators of the website www.breakdownofamerica.com. That site allegedly posted without authorization a May 13 R-J story about Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle. The R-J was credited for the report, court records show.

--Fred Bouzek, whom Righthaven says owns the Internet domain name www.bikernews.net. That website, which carries numerous news stories from around the world on clubs such as the Hells Angels and the Pagans, is accused of posting without authorization an April 5 Review-Journal story about an undercover agent who infiltrated the Hells Angels. The posting on the biker site credited the story to the R-J, court records show.

--Marion Valentine, whom Righthaven says owns the website marionsword.spaces.live.com. Court records show a June 10 R-J editorial was posted on Valentine's blog on the site, with the R-J receiving no credit for the information. The editorial complained about the nation's "vast and unwieldy federal bureaucracy," and "the pipe-dream agenda of left-wing academics and government employee unions."

--Isaac Rosete and an entity in West Covina, Calif., called Question Authority, whom Righthaven says are associated with the website iquestionauthority.com. A May 10 R-J story involving the Gulf of Mexico oil spill allegedly was posted on that website. Records show the R-J received credit for the story on the iquestionauthority website.

--Scottsdale, Ariz., company The Above Network LLC and an official there, William Irvine. They allegedly run the website www.abovetopsecret.com. The same R-J story about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was posted on that site, apparently by a user of the site. A court exhibit filed by Righthaven indicated the R-J was not credited for the story in this case. But an abovetopsecret.com official said that at the top of the post there was a link to the R-J story on the R-J website.

Valentine, who on his website says he lives in Mississippi and is a retired Navy cryptologist, said Thursday: "I post articles I write and articles sent to me by e-mail on my site for information and education only. There are no advertisements on my site, nor do I accept donations, therefore there is no income generated by my site."

"I am a 70-year-old now housebound veteran with 100 percent service-connected disability. I have no attachable property or attachable income, so let them sue away. Frankly, with congestive heart failure, I did not expect to still be living this long, so I will probably be dead before a verdict is reached in the lawsuit anyway," he said.

Officials at The Above Network said they were surprised to be sued over the posting on the abovetopsecret.com website.

They vowed to mount a vigorous legal defense since, they said, their site includes a notification advising copyright holders how to request removal of stories -- yet they said no one from the Review-Journal or Righthaven asked them to remove the story in question.

They also said users who post stories on the abovetopsecret site are required to post links to stories they post, meaning abovetopsecret has been driving Internet traffic in the form of thousands of visitors to the Review-Journal website.

"It's ludicrous. We'll never settle with them," said Mark Allin, a partner at the company, adding the R-J will likely now lose revenue because his site would likely stop allowing users to post R-J stories and links.

The abovetopsecret website includes a "DMCA" notice about a procedure that is commonly used by copyright holders to have copyrighted information removed from websites.

"It is our policy to respond to notices of alleged infringement that comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (found at the U.S. Copyright Office) and other applicable intellectual property laws. It is our policy to remove material from public view that we believe in good faith to be copyrighted material that has been illegally copied and distributed by any of our members or users," says the notice on the abovetopsecret website.

Rather than demanding stories be removed before filing lawsuits, Righthaven's procedure has been to obtain copyrights for individual stories and then sue alleged infringers of those copyrights.

Rosete, of the iquestionauthority website, said he removed the R-J story from his site Thursday after being informed by the Las Vegas Sun that he was being sued.

"The story was about the use of the same chemical dispersants that were used at the Exxon Valdez oil spill that led to the death of many of the cleanup crew and are now being used in the Gulf oil spill. I felt that this information was important and had to be heard. I meant no harm to the paper or writer. This was my first time ever posting a story from their paper ... obviously the last," he said.

"This lawsuit is a big joke ... well, not really a joke, but frivolous to say the least," Rosete said. "They never sent me a cease and desist or any type of complaint about me using their story. If they did not want me to share their article, I would have gladly removed it instantly."

Messages for comment were left with the other defendants.