Wednesday, September 08, 2010
ALIPAC Targeted With "Ambush Copyright Lawsuit" By Righthaven LLC Over Archival Of Las Vegas Review-Journal Story About Senator Harry Reid
ALIPAC, one of the most vocal immigration reform lobbies in the United States, reports that it has been targeted with an "ambush copyright lawsuit" by Righthaven LLC, a Las Vegas-based litigation outfit operated by Steven Gibson. ALIPAC is accused of reproducing a Las Vegas Review-Journal story about U.S. Senator Harry Reid without permission. What's particularly galling is that the suit was not preceded by the customary DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice, which affords a webmaster the opportunity to correct the problem if desired without any litigation or penalty. ALIPAC says that Righthaven is asking a judge to give them full control of ALIPAC's Internet domain www.ALIPAC.us, which would allow them to shut down the entire website.
The story in question is entitled "'Latino Summit': (US Senator) Reid addresses Hispanic issues", and was published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal back on February 18th, 2010. According to ALIPAC, the article describes U.S. Senator Harry Reid's promises to a Latino group that he would support a form of amnesty for illegal aliens in America. The article also describes how many Democrats are backing away from Reid's amnesty legislation due to recent loss of several high-profile seats to Republicans. ALIPAC archived this article in accordance with their ongoing policy to archive articles from online publications as part of the group's rights under the Fair Use Act and as expressions of the group's members freedom of political speech. In the six years ALIPAC has been in operation, no other media outlet or company has chosen to challenge ALIPAC's rights in court, although materials from all major news publications are archived at www.ALIPAC.us. In the few cases where source publications have requested the removal of materials, those requests have been granted by ALIPAC without delay.
Meanwhile, in March 2010, Righthaven LLC was formed by Steven Gibson, who immediately partnered with the Review-Journal to cut down on other websites indiscriminately copying their stories, many without attribution. Up through August 6th, 2010, Righthaven had obtained a portfolio of 119 copyrights to individual stories from Review-Journal owner Stephens Media LLC. Specifically, Righthaven "trolls" or finds an infringement of an R-J copyright to a specific story, buys the copyright for that story from the R-J’s owner, and then sues the infringer — all the while continuing to troll for additional violations. Buying the copyright is an important step because it allows Righthaven to seek statutory damages (some of the defendants are arguing that Righthaven lacks standing to sue them because Righthaven didn’t own the copyrights at the time of the initial infringement). Since March, Gibson has filed 91 lawsuits against website owners throughout North America over the unauthorized re-postings of many of those stories. In no case was the lawsuit preceded by a DMCA takedown notice.
Steven Gibson has found a small loophole in DMCA which permits him to bypass the notice and go straight for litigation. For a website to claim the "safe harbor" coverage which would mandate that a copyright complainant first send a takedown notice, website owners must designate a contact and register their contact information with the U.S. Copyright Office. Gibson's targets have been websites which have not registered -- and thus do not qualify under the safe harbor provision. Righthaven seeks quick settlements of anywhere from $3,000-$5,000, much like RIAA used to do to people who downloaded unauthorized music.
Obviously, DMCA needs to be revisited -- and revised by Congress. But you can see HERE that ALIPAC archived and republished the WHOLE article, not just an excerpt or summary and the story link. I wonder if Righthaven would be going after ALIPAC if they had just posted an excerpt or summary?
The Las Vegas Sun published a detailed story on Righthaven back on August 4th, 2010 (you'll notice links to many more Righthaven stories on their right sidebar). Steven Gibson took exception to being called a shakedown artist, saying that his critics are ignoring 200 years of copyright law. Gibson further explained that Righthaven, which employs about 10 people tracking down and suing copyright infringers, has other media partners, and that the newspaper industry — hit hard by bankruptcies, layoffs and the closures of papers — needs Righthaven’s services to stop the diversion of newspaper website users to infringing websites.
The problem is that the methods they use are like sex without foreplay.
ALIPAC will be reaching out to supporters across America for financial and legal assistance in this matter. They do not intend to pay Righthaven a single dime, much less the thousands of dollars they usually extract from bloggers who cannot afford to defend themselves. Other Righthaven victims are listed on the RighthavenVictims blog.