Friday, June 17, 2011

Litigation-Based Business Model, Freedom of Speech, and Intellectual Property

"Bloggers Mull Legal Action Against Righthaven"
David Kravets, Threat Level, Wired (June 15, 2011)

"Bloggers who paid thousands of dollars each to settle copyright-infringement allegations with Righthaven were mulling their legal options Wednesday, a day after a federal judge said the copyright troll had no legal standing to bring that kind of lawsuits.

" 'We're thinking seriously about what to do,' Clayton Cramer, the former operator of the now-defunct, said in a telephone interview.

"More than 100 owners of blogs and other sites have settled with Righthaven for undisclosed sums, and Cramer wants his money back. Righthaven has lodged more than 300 lawsuits across the nation in a courthouse barrage that might not have been legal.

"Cramer settled for an undisclosed sum with Righthaven last year to end allegations his gun-rights site committed copyright infringement for running an entire Las Vegas Review-Journal article. The agreements prohibit either party from disclosing the settlement terms, but Righthaven's suit initially sought $75,000 in damages.

" 'That made their threat demanding $75,000 a credible threat, so we settled,' Clayton said...."

This isn't a political blog. The Lemming doesn't say that one person, or party, is always right - and that anybody who disagrees is stupid. The Lemming is also "apathetic" in the sense of not having the properly-hysterical reactions to the proper ideas. ("About the Lemming")

The Lemming isn't upset because Righthaven wanted $75,000 from a "gun-rights site." Lifting an entire article is, the Lemming thinks, a dubiously-sensible practice, since a blog or website can link to outside articles. Or do what the Lemming does: quote excerpts, link to the original source, and say where the material is from and who created it.

Which is why the Lemming calls these posts "micro-reviews." They're short(ish) reviews of stuff the Lemming digs up.

The Lemming is a trifle concerned that someone may have tried to drive a website supporting the 'wrong' views off the Internet by 'assault with crippling lawsuit.' Freedom of expression is something the Lemming does care about - and folks with money to hire lawyers have, in the Lemming's opinion, quite enough clout as it is.

To Link or Not to Link - That is the Question

Sorry, Shakespeare - the Lemming couldn't resist that one. Didn't, anyway.

Linking without quoting a meaningful excerpt assumes that the original source will still have the article available - at that URL - a week, a month, or a year from publication. Some outfits realize that they lose viewers by shuffling their content or deleting pages - and don't hide or destroy their content. Some editors/bosses/supervisors may think they've got a reason to discourage repeat visits - and that's another topic.


Back to that article:

"...Cramer's reaction was in response to a Nevada federal judge's Tuesday decision that Righthaven did not have standing to bring a copyright lawsuit against the Democratic Underground blog for allegedly pilfering four paragraphs from a 34-paragraph story published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is owned by Stephens Media.

"Righthaven sues on behalf of Stephens Media copyrights, and U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt ruled that such a litigation tactic was impermissible because a 'copyright owner cannot assign a bare right to sue.' (.pdf) The decision, and a similar one in Colorado, has thrown a monkey wrench into the litigation-based business model, which the Electronic Frontier Foundation has declared a 'sham.'..."

Quoting 4/34 of an article - and that's "pilfering??" "Allegedly" or not - that's just a little over 1/8 of the article - which isn't all that much, in the Lemming's opinion. Maybe Democratic Underground claimed - tacitly or otherwise - that they'd created the content.

If "Las Vegas Review-Journal" sounds familiar - a post by the Lemming mentioned them about a year ago. (June 13, 2010)

Intellectual Property Rights and the Lemming

The Lemming thinks intellectual property rights are important. Partly because the Lemming creates content - like this post (the stuff that's not an excerpt from the Wired article), and that picture.

Is what the Lemming writes as valuable, word-for-word, as a Stephen King novel? Or are the Lemming's pictures going to sell like a Mary Cassatt original? Hardly. Not even close. But the Lemming slaps identifying text on images the Lemming makes, anyway - and has fairly standard copyright statements in blogs and websites.

On the other hand, the Lemming doesn't lie wake nights, worried that somewhere, somehow, some nefarious nogoodnik has copied a paragraph of a post and republishing it. The Lemming's got enough to do, just writing these posts.

And making the occasional semi-nifty picture.

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