Copyright Law

‘Attack Dog’ Group Buys Newspaper Copyrights, Sues 86 Websites


So-called patent trolls have gotten lots of press for buying up and enforcing patents, but there appears to be a new kind of practitioner with a different intellectual property focus—the copyright troll.

A Las Vegas start-up called Righthaven has purchased several copyrights to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and sued at least 86 website owners for copyright infringement, the Las Vegas Sun reports. The suits seek $75,000 in damages and forfeiture of the website domain names.

“When it comes to fighting copyright theft in the news industry—the piracy of stories, editorials, columns, photos and videos—there are watchdogs and there are attack dogs,” the Sun says. “The Las Vegas Review-Journal and its copyright enforcement partner, a Las Vegas start-up called Righthaven LLC, are squarely in the attack-dog category.”

The story says Righthaven first trolls to find an infringement and then buys the copyright to the story. The next step is an infringement suit. Defendants include “mom-and-pop-type bloggers” such as the City Felines Blog and even the Democratic Party of Nevada, the Sun reports.

Review-Journal publisher Sherman Frederick has written on his blog that the idea is to “stop people from stealing our stuff” and Righthaven is protecting journalism.

Some defendants have argued Righthaven lacks standing because it didn’t own the copyrights at the time the infringing story was posted. Other defendants who posted stories about themselves may have a fair-use defense, San Francisco lawyer Chris Ridder told the Sun.

A separate Las Vegas Sun article details other defense arguments. Some defense lawyers have claimed that Nevada courts don’t have jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants, or that Righthaven should have requested the offending material be taken down before filing suit.

Righthaven CEO Steve Gibson told Wired’s Threat Level blog that his company has an agreement with the Review-Journal publisher to begin helping it enforce copyrights for more than 70 other newspapers in nine states.

“We believe it’s the best solution out there,” Gibson tells the blog. “Media companies’ assets are very much their copyrights. These companies need to understand and appreciate that those assets have value more than merely the present advertising revenues.”

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