Thursday, July 29, 2010

This week's LVW Col: the R-J Copyright Suits

While the rest of the media takes cheap shots derived from their ideological or personal differences, I present the other way on the R-J lawsuit drama for this week's Las Vegas Weekly. And bravo for the Weekly for letting me do it, given the blood feud between its owner and Sherm Frederick. Read on. -sf

Defending the R-J’s copyright suits

Sherm Frederick is right.

Stew in that for a moment. I know, it’s hard to digest. You can’t imagine how difficult it is for me to write. But the publisher of the Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media has hit on something that may, in fact, help clean up the freewheeling world of Internet intellectual property theft.

Frederick has tasked a company called Righthaven to file dozens of lawsuits against website owners who lift and post entire or huge passages of R-J stories without authorization. Righthaven buys the copyright from Stephens Media, then pursues damages. While some site proprietors claim all they did was link to the R-J’s website, most of the evidence in court filings indicate they reproduced entire articles.

That, you see, is called stealing. And while those who dislike the R-J’s editorial views or feel personally assaulted are crying that they’re Davids being extorted by Goliath, the fact is I’ve got no more right to steal from Walmart than I do from your sister’s crafts shop.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com.


mike_ch said...

I think it's a bit more reasonable to say that while Sherm is following the letter of the law, this shows that the law is pretty ridiculous and needs changing.

His bizarre crusade is pretty callous, but may have the unintended consequences of rethinking publishing laws in a digital age.

But then again, given what they have been suing over, it's also just as likely that a lot of these lawsuits are bull and will be thrown out as fair use. It really does look like a boat firing all it's canons just because it can.


WHAT is so ridiculous about stopping people from stealing your copyrighted material? This concept that everything should be free on the Internet is what is ridiculous.

It is not fair use to repost an entire article or huge portions of it just because you think it's interesting. You're betraying YOUR lack of comprehension of both what fair use is intended to protect and what makes a media company valuable.

You wouldn't be OK with some other TV station playing TV shows they recorded off another station without paying for it, would you? How is this any different?

I'd LOVE to see the day the law is changed to say that if I publish something, I am consenting for anyone to republish it wherever and whenever they want without paying for it or getting permission. That'll be the day the media officially goes out of business.

ShortWoman said...

It's very simple. You've got nothing to fear from Righthaven if you follow the rules you probably learned in High School about citing your sources. All you've got to do is 1) quote just the bit that makes your point 2) link or attribute to the correct source.

If everybody did this, Righthaven would be out of business.

mike_ch said...

Just saw your response.

The problem is that on some level you are requiring someone to play police. Perhaps the most proper role of "policing" is the holder of the IP itself, but the RJ hasn't even bothered with takedown notices, which are a pretty standard practice in the publishing legal arena, and have jumped immediately at lawsuits.

And not everybody can be bothered to afford an attorney just because they plan to post on the internet. Filing suits is the kind of thing that would be acceptable if you file a C&D and are ignored/the conditions are not met/whatever.

It's as big a form of pushing people around as a wealthy bully who sat on another Vegas forum for a few weeks and threatened to sue me for libel just because he didn't like that I was belittling his "exclusive info". Turn posting online into something where you must keep an attorney on standby for the consequences is going to turn it into a forum where only those with means will be speaking.

It's not that Sherm doesn't have the law on his side, but that not even bothering to threaten people with lawsuits and just immediately going to town on anyone and not regarding the big picture.

Vegas Tea Room said...

I find it amusing that your article printed in the Weekly has an email this story button and a print button.

Why on earth would you allow these copyright violations such easy access? I do believe that emailing the article is considered a republishig according to interpretations of the law.


TeaRoom: When you email someone the piece, you don't get the piece. You get a link. That is precisely how Social Media works -- it leads you to the source so the source can enjoy the audience.

Mike: takedown letters may be common, but they're laborious and they don't actually stop the problem.

Vegas Tea Room said...

Oh, like this:

Jeff in OKC said...

I have a couple issues with the process. First, I wonder if any other "Big media" site in America is doing this? So far, from what little I can find, the answer is no. So, is Sherm a visionary, or is he a mean spirited control freak who is cutting off his nose to spite his face? Certainly this is stealing, but so is burning cds or dvds for your buddies, which everyone who reads this does from time to time. Is this like those suits where the Music Association was suing the single mother of three, because she had 20,000 songs on her ipod, or those "I'm in jail because I rigged HBO on my cable box" ads from 15-20 years ago? Neither of those activities changed because of the efforts I mentioned, but because of better inventory control. It also appears to criminalize basically honest citizens; the thing most Americans fear from Big Brother.
This reminds me of the story told in the book Casino (by Nick Pileggi) about how Carl Thomas, the mastermind behind the skim at the Tropicana and Stardust, was recorded explaining to the Kansas City mob bosses the concept of "leakage", where the guys in the count rooms who were supposed to steal money from the casinos for the mob were also stealing a little money for themselves. The mobsters were aghast,but Thomas explained how that was just the way the real world operates.
My other issue is the claim amount of $2.99 per hit. I can't imagine how any article can be worth that amount of revenue for each viewer, much less the articles cited in the suits. do internet news sites and bloggers make that much revenue for each view of their product?

mike_ch said...

Steve: Most people would comply with a takedown notice. If they don't comply, then you have a better case for your lawsuit.

Keep in mind it's not the RJ doing this, it's this Righthaven firm. The RJ is paying them good money to go around representing their content. Even the RIAA sends your ISP C&Ds instead of just plain suing them.

Between this and what I've seen of Kindle, it seems that the publishing industry is even more out of touch with the digital world than the music/movie industries.

Anonymous said...

It's quite interesting that an article on a blog defending the LVJR and Righthaven and what they are doin, has done the same thing that some of those Righthaven has sued. And that is to quote a portion of an article from another location, and provide a link back to the source article.

That is exactly what some of those folks that Righthaven has filed suits against have done.


ANON: Um, no. I own the copyrights for my own columns and may post them in this fashion. Furthermore, whenever I post portions of MY OWN STORIES on my blog to encourage readership on the site where it appears, I make sure I have permission to do so.

Secondly, I do excerpt and link to articles on this blog all the time, providing excerpts for commentary purposes. The way I do it constitutes fair use, which is why I have never been sued or even received a takedown notice. Fair use is not, "Hey, this is interesting to me!" followed by the entire article, linked or not to the original source.

Finally, while some have claimed that they were being sued simply for providing a brief excerpt and then linking to an R-J story, the documentation filed with these lawsuits shows otherwise. The vast majority of these cases are pretty simple -- someone stole entire stories and reposted them without authorization.