Righthaven drops infringement lawsuit against journalist

After experiencing a quick wave of criticism, Las Vegas copyright enforcement company Righthaven LLC today dropped its lawsuit against journalist Eriq Gardner.

Many commentators noted Friday's suit over a Denver Post TSA pat-down photo appeared to be vulnerable to a fair use defense.

In writing about another Righthaven lawsuit over the Drudge Report's use of the photo, a story by Gardner on the Ars Technica website was illustrated with what appeared to be a court exhibit from the Drudge case.

And as it turns out, it was a court exhibit.

"I'd buy a 'I survived Righthaven' T-shirt, but won't for trademark reasons," Gardner quipped in a Twitter tweet after the dismissal.

Gardner is a New York-based journalist who writes for The Hollywood Reporter and other publications.

A story on the Ars Technica website today was headlined: "Copyright troll Righthaven's epic blunder: a lawsuit targeting Ars"

The story said: "In our article, we reproduced the patdown photo in question. It wasn't a copy of the original image. No, our reproduction came from Righthaven's own court filing against The Drudge Report. It was a grainy black-and-white image from the court documents, which in turn had copied the image from Drudge, which in turn had (allegedly) copied it from the Post."

"We strongly believe that the use is fair — indeed, that it is almost a paradigmatic case of fair use," Ars Technica's story said.

"The reaction (to the suit) around the Ars newsroom — and from our legal counsel — was absolute bafflement," the story said.

"So, after getting the green light from Condé Nast's legal team, I gave Righthaven a call to find out just what was going on here. After waiting on hold for a while, I was put through to Steven Ganim and Shawn Mangano, lawyers for Righthaven, who immediately volunteered the information that the lawsuit had been 'dismissed with prejudice' this morning after it 'came to our attention' that Gardner was a reporter," said the story by Ars Technica writer Nate Anderson.

The dismissal came after a Las Vegas attorney familiar with Righthaven told the Las Vegas Sun that Righthaven "must have been insane" to file the suit as the image with Gardner's story was clearly a fair use.

Also commenting on the suit today were frequent Righthaven commentators Joe Mullin and Mike Masnick.