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RightHaven LLC Suing forums and bloggers over Copyrighted newspaper articles...

Discussion in 'Copyright, Trademark, Patent Law' started by BirdOPrey5, Sep 21, 2010.

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  1. BirdOPrey5

    BirdOPrey5 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I don't know how much you guys may already know about this situation but I searched this forum for "RightHaven" and "Right Haven" and didn't get any results so maybe it was never discussed here.

    From my understanding RightHaven LLC is a Las Vegas based LLC opened by a lawyer. RightHaven LLC searches the internet for newspaper articles from lvrj.com (Las Vegas Review Journal) then when they find a blog or forum that has posted all or part of a story, obtains the rights to the story, then sues the domain owner with no warning or take down notice. They sue for $75,000 and forfeiture of the domain name, but have never gone to trial, they settle for a few thousand dollars. They are working on making partnerships with other newspapers that post content online.

    As a forum owner myself this scares me... I'm no lawyer but in the past I've held my own in legal matters. I read their complaint in full and one of the sticking points seems to be that the offending website claims Copyright of all material on their site, so they are claiming Copyright on articles that aren't their own. For what it's worth I changed the Copyright notice on my site to only claim Copyright on original material and acknowledge not all material on the site is original and that unoriginal material remains Copyright of their respective owners.

    I've also set a new rule that no articles may be copied at all onto the forum, only link to the article in question. However There are no doubt hundreds of existing posts where all or part of articles were copied to my site where users would comment on them. As I find them I edit the posts but there are nearly a million posts I can't go through them all. I ran a search for "lvrj.com"and found a handful of posts that mentioned them. I removed all content from their articles though none of them were full copies, just quotes. I also put "lvrj.com" as a censored word so we can not ever link to them in the future.

    Am I going overboard by not allowing any articles to be quoted on my site? What if instead of quoting an article I placed a link to the original article in an IFRAME? I would think that would allow the original site to still collect ad revenue from displaying their ads but this company doesn't seem reasonable to me to begin with so I don't know what to do...

    This seems like a major headache for forum and blog owners. I respect Copyrights personally and always link to the original article if I quote part or all of it- and I would never quote a long article in full but if it's just a short paragraph about something I would in the past quote the whole thing with a link to the original site- do I really need to go through every back post to be safe from something like this?

    I apologize for the long post but there is a lot of this story to digest.:eek:
     
  2. BirdOPrey5

    BirdOPrey5 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    There is a lot of legal info on this here:
    righthavenlawsuits.com (I can't post links yet.)
     
  3. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    Here's the scoop - you should read about what the DMCA does - I have an article that is about to be published in our Guide section I'll send you to shortly. If you follow a logical set of rules, you have no cause to fear. Virtually all the articles on the site you provide are misguided in one way - most admit that copyright infringement took place, they are just outraged over the high damages that Righthaven is asking for, whether or not anything near that amount of damage took place.

    Under the DMCA (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act), if you follow its simple rules, you - the forum owner - will be protected by copyright infringement that is the result of your users. A takedown notice is required to be sent first by the copyright owner, informing you that there is copyrighted information on your site that you have not been authorized to use.

    You may ask, why is this not the law in the case of these bloggers? This is because on your forum you might not know who put up the content. Without such laws, running a forum would be impossible because no forum could survive and have a free flowing exchange of ideas if it had to prescreen every post. But with bloggers, they KNOW what they are writing and posting. It is their site. In many of these cases these bloggers are foolish enough to post entire articles on their site as if it was authored by the blogger. Using a portion of an article is fine, provided it is small enough. Most of these bloggers are using significant portions - even if it is "just 15%" of an article - so that a user may not bother to read the full article. That's a great deal of text and prevents another person from obtaining the benefits of their hard work.

    With regard to copyright law punishment, this is an old argument. Corporations have pushed for severe protection, e.g. the late Sonny Bono whose great accomplishments included making life better for corporations by giving them even more decades to sue for infringement before an item lapses into the public domain after almost a century of use. And then there are the statutory damages that can punish even relatively innocent infringers for absurd amounts of money that have no relation to the actual damage, even the policing of the content. Sure it's a problem, but the severity of punishment in this one area is difficult to digest when other crimes (especially white collar) are punished much less severely. This is a battle that I believe the EFF is fighting (the Electronic Frontier Foundation) and it will be interesting to see where it goes.

    If you search this site, you'll see grandmothers being sent cease and desist letters and demands for thousands of dollars for using one piece of clip art without authorization. Getty Images has been getting a reputation for being an online pugilist with regard to infringement of copyright for use of its images. It's the same issue as Brookhaven except this group specifically bought lawsuits to take advantage of the law.
     
  4. BirdOPrey5

    BirdOPrey5 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I am a little familiar with DCMA and know I should have a published procedure on my site for dealing with DCMA issues should they ever arise, but I will look forward to the article.

    Do you have any opinion on if my idea to link to relevant articles in an "iframe" (a webpage embedded in another web page) would be a preferable way of displaying an article than quoting it?
     
  5. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    Quoting a small portion and providing a link should never get you in trouble. Is there a need to iframe the article? Please explain the purpose.
     
  6. BirdOPrey5

    BirdOPrey5 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Just as a convenience to members, instead of clicking on a link and opening a new browser window or tab it would be easier to just see the article instantly and have the scroll bars to scroll through it and read it... I know it would make my life easier... I would of course include the real link too in case members preferred it.
     
  7. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    How would you feel if you spent a month researching information and writing an article and posting it on your website to get recognition - only to have some other guy frame your article for convenience if his members, without your web site getting the page views that you worked so hard to get? The same goes for the bloggers being sued by RightHaven - it was much easier to just copy the entire article instead of sending their users to another website. Even morally it's wrong. (This isn't to say that RightHaven isn't taking other liberties it possibly shouldn't.)
     
  8. BirdOPrey5

    BirdOPrey5 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Maybe you're not familiar with how an iframe works, it's exactly like viewing the page in a separate window except that window appears embedded on a different page. The site in the iframe still gets the page view, all ads display, they don't lose any money. Personally as a forum owner I might even prefer someone put my content they were referencing in an iframe than a simple link because it's more traffic for me. If you use Google Image Search and click on an image it puts the page with the image on it in an iframe. I could include code to have the page open in a new window if the user chooses.
     
  9. BirdOPrey5

    BirdOPrey5 Law Topic Starter New Member

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  10. BirdOPrey5

    BirdOPrey5 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    It goes in to say the newspaper website had tools to encourage sharing on Facebook and Twitter...

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/09/righthaven-sham/
     
  11. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    I am very familiar with iframes. Lawsuits began regarding this same issue long ago when people used to use frames - it's the exact same thing as an iframe but done in a different way. iframing an article may or may not give a site owner all the benefits and I'll name you one you missed - seeing the url in the title bar. When people send to friend or want to publicize the article, they'll be sending your site's url as the published page link if they copy and paste into email. This is just one issue. With regard to Google, from what I've seen it provides you with a preview of the picture which, if you click the close button, takes you directly to the page upon which the image appears.

    With regard to iframes, that is different than actually copying the information. I want to make a distinction between the two as the legal issues, if any, are completely different. I'm referring you to the cases that involve framing, which has already been discussed. I don't do it because I know it would annoy any other webmasters to have their pages framed.
     
  12. BirdOPrey5

    BirdOPrey5 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I don't want to split hairs but if you use the "Share on Facebook" or "Tweet on Twitter" elements in the article they do indeed share the direct link to the article. Also in my particular case my forum is hidden to those who aren't registered so members never send links to friends or family because they know they won't be able to get on. I realize that doesn't sound like a good defense in trial if it ever came down to it though.
     
  13. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    Here is another interesting article on the topic and how bloggers may choose to post based upon who they think they can potentially abuse without penalty and it's directly on topic to what you're talking about:

    http://www.lvrj.com/blogs/sherm/The_Righthaven_Effect.html

    It looks like Internet Brands is also being sued by Righthaven as a result of a post in its Corvette Forum:

    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2010/sep/05/defendant-accuses-righthaven-misusing-legal-system/

    What I'd like to know is why a big company like Internet Brands didn't take down the material or receive a takedown notice, which is the usual protocol when a third party posts infringing material on a website. I will look into these and post further on this issue.
     
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  14. BirdOPrey5

    BirdOPrey5 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Oh that's gold... so are you going to post this over there or am I?

    As for the take down notices, that is what I've been saying- Right Haven doesn't give take down notices- they sue immediately once they find so called infringement. If they gave take down notices this would be a non-issue, and I'd even be on their side.

    Edit- guess I will.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2010
  15. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    1. With regard to the first cases you listed, all of them involved a blogger who intentionally posted infringing material. There is no "warning" one gets if that's what they do. With regard to the latest cases this month, it appears Righthaven may have gone a step further. From reading the Righthaven v. Democratic Underground complaint, that may be a lawsuit that relates to a forum where the owner didn't post the infringing material - a third party did. I read the complaint briefly and that one is very strange since it doesn't seem to have sent a takedown notice and alleges that the owner of the site - David Allen - willingly infringed and knew about the posting. That is odd and, IMHO, won't go anywhere. If this is the case, Righthaven may have made a big mistake and that is why all of these new friends like the EFF and the law firm of Winston & Strawn may have decided to hop onto this specific case for, what appears to be, a sure fire victory. Their answer includes fun that only a big firm can have with the court (likely paying homage to the movie "Scarface" in referring to Righthaven's right has as their "little friend.")

    2. With regard to the Internet Brands lawsuit filed by Righthaven, I didn't get to see the complaint but it may be the same issue. Here is a link to the news article: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2010/aug/10/5-more-websites-sued-over-r-j-story-copyrights/

    You can find the Internet Brands Answer to the Righthaven Complaint in our files area.

    It doesn't really say much of anything and seems to be designed to make Righthaven do more work to explain why any lawsuit is warranted. It uses some unusual defenses too, some of which you can use either The Law Dictionary or The Law Guide - Law Dictionary App for the iPhone and Android to help you understand!
     
  16. BirdOPrey5

    BirdOPrey5 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    A couple of interesting developments, the EFF has two lawsuits going against Right Haven now... But this is more interesting:

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/10/dmca-righthaven-loophole/

    This article says there is a form to fill out and pay $105 fee to the government to register an agent to deal with DCMA claims. The article says if you fill out this form (and pay the $105 fee) you are essentially immune to these lawsuits. Does that sound legitimate to you guys? I never knew about officially filing, I had always seen an agent name and address listed in a site's TOS.
     
  17. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    We are listed:

    http://www.copyright.gov/onlinesp/list/l_agents.html

    This is not new although it is probably not known by many that you need to have a registered copyright agent, which costs $105. Most don't care to pay an extra fee they believe they won't use - but no, you aren't just automatically immune from lawsuits. You need to comply with all the safe harbor provisions such as having a takedown policy, etc. I don't know whether not registering automatically makes you unable to avail yourself of the safe harbor in the end but it is listed. For that kind of money, I wasn't taking any chances. :)
     
  18. BirdOPrey5

    BirdOPrey5 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    That's what I'm thinking, for ~$100 it's probably worth it.
     
  19. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    If you host forums, blogs and other user generated content, it's a no-brainer imho. One tip - get ALL your forums in there if it's more than 1 company. While I didn't have to, I made sure my main ones were listed. You can list up to 10 separate sites if needed although your TOS can point to the main one, e.g. John Doe Inc. as the owner. Then they look it up on the registry.
     
  20. BirdOPrey5

    BirdOPrey5 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    So should each domain be listed even though they all point to the same site? I have a bunch of unrelated domains I've pointed to my forums over the years even though they have nothing to do with my main domain name... But the forum is owned by a single LLC.
     

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