As reported in ‘Copyright troll’ Righthaven looks to dismiss suit against Democratic Underground, Copyright troll Righthaven has decided “to drop its claim against a liberal forum community which it sued over a four-paragraph excerpt from The Las Vegas Review Journal.”Apparently this is in response to some fair use ruling by the court in another case (if anyone knows what ruling this is please let me know). But notice their politically weaselly explanation:
Righthaven’s sensible reaction to the intervening, immediately relevant fair use ruling recently issued by this court, all in the spirit of judicial economy,” Righthaven said in its motion, according to Steve Green, reporting for The Las Vegas Sun. “Though Righthaven firmly believes that the defendants are liable for copyright infringement, the non-holistic nature of the defendant’s unauthorized textual reproduction is such that reasonable minds may disagree as to the legitimacy of a fair use defense.”
An excerpt from the post is below:
Citing “the spirit of judicial economy,” Righthaven, LLC., a company that makes its money by forcing settlements through copyright lawsuits, said it wanted to drop its claim against a liberal forum community which it sued over a four-paragraph excerpt from The Las Vegas Review Journal.
The company’s recent motion to dismiss noted that they wanted to drop the suit due to a decision by Nevada federal judge Larry Hicks, who recently dismissed a similar claim brought by Righthaven.
After being sued, Democratic Underground (DU) sought the help of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF), which filed a counter-claim on their behalf. Righthaven asked that EFF’s suit be dropped as well.
“This motion represents Righthaven’s sensible reaction to the intervening, immediately relevant fair use ruling recently issued by this court, all in the spirit of judicial economy,” Righthaven said in its motion, according to Steve Green, reporting for The Las Vegas Sun. “Though Righthaven firmly believes that the defendants are liable for copyright infringement, the non-holistic nature of the defendant’s unauthorized textual reproduction is such that reasonable minds may disagree as to the legitimacy of a fair use defense.”
“Righthaven has brought over 130 lawsuits in Nevada federal court claiming copyright infringement, even though they do not create, produce or distribute any content,” EFF explained. “Instead, they create lawsuits by scouring the Internet for content from Review-Journal stories posted on blogs and online forums, acquiring the copyright to that particular story from Stephens Media LLC (the Review-Journal’s publisher), and then suing the poster for infringement.
“As part of its lawsuit business model, Righthaven claims damages of up to $150,000 under the Copyright Act’s statutory damages provisions and uses that threat to attempt to push defendants into a quick settlement. In the answer and counterclaim filed Monday, Democratic Underground asked the court to affirm that the excerpt of the article does not infringe copyright and is a fair use of the material, with no damages due to Righthaven.”
By wielding copyright law as a blunt instrument, Righthaven has the effect of “chilling free and open discussion on the Internet,” DU founder David Allen claimed in a media advisory.
Critics have come to know the company as a “copyright troll”: a slang that seems to have stuck.
“Despite what Righthaven claims, it’s hard to interpret these lawsuits as anything else besides a way to bully Internet users into paying unnecessary settlements,” EFF attorney Kurt Opsahl added. “At the same time, Righthaven is trying to discourage the practice of quoting and linking that is both essential to the interconnected Internet and helps drive significant traffic to newspapers online.”
In a profile by Wired, Righthaven CEO Steve Gibson claimed his company has secured an agreement to expand their copyright lawsuit business to all Stephens Media properties, which includes 70 newspapers in nine states.
Update: the fair use ruling is apparently the one described here:
The Las Vegas Review-Journal online copyright infringement lawsuit campaign sustained a setback Tuesday when a judge granted a real estate agent’s motion for dismissal, ruling his posting of part of a Review-Journal story on his website amounted to fair use under copyright law. …
Righthaven, in its June 25 lawsuit, alleged Nelson and codefendants “copied, on an unauthorized basis, a significant and substantial portion” of an April 30 Review-Journal story called “Program may level housing sale odds” as well as two other Review-Journal stories about real estate.
The “housing sale odds” story that Righthaven obtained a copyright for and sued over consisted of 30 sentences, but Nelson reproduced “only” the first eight sentences, Hicks wrote in his ruling that was filed Tuesday.
“The court finds that this use weighs in favor of a fair use of the copyrighted material,” Hicks wrote in his ruling, citing case law stating “copying only as much as necessary in a greater work (story) to provide relevant factual information weighs in favor of fair use.”
As to whether the online posting affected the potential market for the Review-Journal story, Hicks wrote: “Nelson’s use of the copyrighted material is likely to have little to no effect on the market for the copyrighted news article. Nelson’s copied portion of the work (story) did not contain the author’s commentary. As such, his use does not satisfy a reader’s desire to view and read the article in its entirety the author’s original commentary and thereby does not dilute the market for the copyrighted work. Additionally, Nelson directed readers of his blog to the full text of the work. Therefore, Nelson’s use supports a finding of fair use.”
Hicks ruled in favor of Nelson despite finding that his blogsite where the information was posted was commercial in nature, writing “the underlying purpose of providing this information is to create business for himself as a duly licensed Realtor.”
In Nelson’s favor, Hicks found the portion of the story that Nelson copied contained “factual news reporting about a new federal housing program, which supports Nelson’s fair use of the copyrighted information.”
While the Review-Journal story at issue included both “factual news reporting and reporter commentary,” Hicks found Nelson’s posting of the factual reporting part of the story was protected under case law in which a rebroadcast “of a video depicting a news report was a fair use because it was informational rather than creative.”