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May 2012 Issue

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Cover Story

The Righthaven Experiment: A Journalist Wonders If a Copyright Troll Was Right to Sue Him

Almost anyone who uses the Internet and is slightly curious about their own digital existence has, over the past decade, had what might be termed a Google moment. These are times, as you type your name into the search engine box, that you realize you don’t have control, that whatever you’ve done in your life is free to be appropriated and contextualized in all sorts of ways. We have identities, and then we have digital identities; and it’s not hard, when you’re looking through the digital looking glass of a Google ego surf, to wonder which is more important.

My strangest Google moment came one day last year when Google’s search engine monkeys led me to an article in the Las Vegas Sun revealing that I had just been sued. The plaintiff in the lawsuit was Righthaven, a company founded in early 2010 with the express purpose of suing copyright infringers on the Internet.

I’ve written about this company just once before, in a December 2010 article for Ars Technica that revealed that the company had picked a new target—the Drudge Report. My article included an image from Righthaven’s legal papers of a picture the company claimed to own. For this copy of a copy of a copy, I became Righthaven’s latest mark.

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