Monday, August 23, 2010

Righthaven Provides Wiggle Room, Re: Angle

I got Righthaven LLC chief Steve Gibson on the phone today to find out when he's going to sue Sharron Angle for lifting entire Review-Journal articles for months and, frequently, not even providing bylines or links.

It was an educational conversation.

His answer was that he would "have to take a look at it," but when I asked for his email to send him some links, he declined to provide it and told me: "I don't have time to review every case I receive a call about. I'm not going to do a spot evaluation. I can't do due diligence on alleged infringments and then give you an impromptu response to those alleged infringements."

Huh. I'd think they'd be really worried about this one. I mean, they've gone and sued very, very small websites with tiny, valueless audiences. Here we've got a case of the site of the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, which undoubtedly receives thousands of page views every day. It's an extremely high-profile case and the potential damages are probably among the highest Righthaven could seek. It would also generate national news, which is great for Righthaven, no?

Gibson also said he doesn't "talk about infringing matters that we don't pursue," which means they're using discretion after all. And I can totally see Sherm Frederick, never a paragon of consistency or logic, instructing him to lay off Angle to avoid generating embarrassing headlines for the candidate. Would Sherm do the same for Harry Reid? Duh. Of course not.

"There are probably millions if not billions of infringements we won't be able to address," Gibson told me. "It doesn't weaken our position at all. ... Two wrongs don't make a right. Two infringers doesn't make an innocent infringer."

Gibson continued to trumpet the fact that his firm hasn't been ideologically driven. But that's precisely why this is the perfect test case, isn't it?

"You've seen Righthaven make claims against left-wing sites, right-wing sites. Rightaven has even been tied to the Obama Administration. [Some on the Web] believe because I'm from Chicago, because of the background I have and the fact that we went after some right-leaning sites, somehow I'm doing this at the behest of Barack Obama. We're going to displease a lot of people because we do not discriminate on politics or what have you."

Fascinating. I tried to get him to explain, then, how he decides who to sue and who not to sue. He kept talking about how that's proprietary and that he may soon have competitors in this space. But he did say this:

"I can tell you this much. We have an automated search matrix that generates a tremendous amount of reviewable content, an absolutely tremendous amunt of reviewable content. ... I just can't be in the business of commenting on every possible infringment. I wouldn't get anything done."

After the interview was over, by the by, he asked me out to lunch so he can earn me as a client. In fact, he asked me in the beginning of the interview, too. In the beginning I redirected us to what I wanted to discuss, and at the end I tried to explain how inappropriate that question was given that I'm covering this situation and his company as a journalist.

He didn't understand.

12 comments:

Scott Swank said...

Should this be considered a campaign contribution? At Righthaven's starting claim amount of $150,000 per article is would comprise a $750,000 contribution, which is just a smidge over the max allowed contribution.

H.Peter said...

Brillant. This is going to be fun to watch....

Anonymous said...

This is a fair use issue. Nonetheless, Angle's campaign will be over soon. There's no intent to profit so where's the actual damages? Other than asking the campaign to remove the materials or limiting the amount of material they can lift for fair use, there's nothing else he can claim.

I find it curious that you noticed the problem and not him. This lapse isn't going to help him if he decides to seek redress later.

I also find it interesting that you think Angle can link to the articles as if that settles the matter. Some websites don't even want to allow the links. This is a gray area.

Anonymous said...

Why is Steve Gibson grabbing his crotch in the photo?

THE STRIP PODCAST said...

Anon: This is not fair use in any sense of the word. If this is fair use, then there is no point to copyright law whatsoever. There's no context, no criticism, no analysis. It's just, here's the story about me! wheee! Also, the site posting it doesn't have to be for-profit to be sued or found liable. Several of those sued by the RJ have been nonprofits. Whether Angle is profiting is immaterial to whether her use of these stories causes the RJ to lose potential revenue.

Anonymous said...

The picture of Gibson holding his pecker is a totally appropriate portrait of this wanker, even better than the Sun photo of him wearing that dweeby headset. Self-important much?

David McKee

Anonymous said...

Thanks for noticing the crotch grabbing . I thought I was the only one out there who got a cheap laugh at this odd pose.

Anonymous said...

@The Strip Podcast
Yes, it is fair use, but it is stretching the limits of free use. Your claim that RJ loses ad revenue from the lack of clicks is not the basis for a lawsuit. The best thing for RJ to do is send a cease and desist letter and wait and see what happens. Angle's campaign will no doubt comply. It is as easy as that. Short of that, what will a lawsuit accomplish?

By the time the court hears the case, the campaign is over. I know you want to damage Angle, but this way is downright strange. Maybe you want the lawsuit to still happen after the campaign a la the Sarah Palin so Angle will never pursue office again. It isn't the same situation.

THE STRIP PODCAST said...

Anon: you are clearly unfamiliar with righthaven or the more than 100 lawsuits they have already filed, why they're doing it and what they hope to accomplish. Please inform yourself about what's been happening in this case before you comment further. Thanks.

zmous said...

How about reviewing the defendent's response to the frivolous lawsuits?

http://righthavenvictims.blogspot.com/2010/08/defense-entrapment.html

Fair use is used in their defense.

"Use of the article fell under the 'fair use' clause of copyright law."


I don't understand why you claim I haven't reviewed the cases. It isn't hard to find out what's really going on.

Another one is claiming Righthaven might not have standing. I'm wonder if this defense has merit. Righthaven obtained the copyright after it found the infringment.

http://www.techdirt.com/blog.php?company=righthaven&edition=techdirt

THE STRIP PODCAST said...

Anon:

Assuming you're the same poster who wrote these two statements...

"Other than asking the campaign to remove the materials or limiting the amount of material they can lift for fair use, there's nothing else he can claim."

...and...

"Your claim that RJ loses ad revenue from the lack of clicks is not the basis for a lawsuit. The best thing for RJ to do is send a cease and desist letter and wait and see what happens. Angle's campaign will no doubt comply. It is as easy as that. Short of that, what will a lawsuit accomplish?"


...then you sound quite uninformed about what's been happening.

How can you say that this is not "the basis for a lawsuit" WHEN IT'S THE BASIS FOR 100+ LAWSUITS ALREADY? And how can you say that they can't do anything other than asking Angle to remove the posting when they've BEEN MAKING THESE CLAIMS FOR MONTHS WITHOUT DOING SO?

In your most recent comment, you've made a significant assumption: That everything that the defendants argue is correct. You're stating their point of view as though a judge has already agreed with them, but that hasn't actually happened. So their arguments, right now, are just arguments.

The whole point here is that Righthaven HAS sued more than 100 sites for similar alleged infractions. None of the defendants got cease/desist letters. These lawsuits do exist, ergo your claim that this isn't the basis for a lawsuit is false. What will a lawsuit accomplish? Well, in a few cases so far, parties have actually settled with Righthaven. So there's that. Righthaven believes there's more to come.

You and I disagree on the notion that posting any article containing Angle's name in full with no commentary at all is fair use. Well and good. But that's not even the question here. I'm applying the arguments Righthaven has made and the actions Righthaven has taken and noting that they have no choice but to sue the Angle campaign if they want to remain consistent.

Incidentally, I never said that Angle would've been off the hook if she had provided a link. I was simply noting that many of those who were sued by Righthaven did at least that and it didn't prevent the lawsuit. I don't have any idea where you got the impression I thought that alone was a panacea when, in fact, I wrote this:

"By the way, when I first inquired about the R-J's policy earlier this year as the lawsuits began landing, I was told I would remain in bounds with the R-J policy if I used the material under "fair use" -- that is, I was excerpting pieces for legitimate commentary -- or if I provided a headline and the first paragraph or two of a story, with a link."

zmous said...

Yes, I was the one posted those quotes. Contrary to your claim, the correct use of fair use is in doubt. Here is the Democratic Underground who was sued for excerpting 4 paragraphs of a a 34 paragraph story. The DU done the right thing, yet they were sued. They will fight the lawsuit.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2010/aug/11/righthaven-sues-democratic-underground-website-ove/

It is quite ironic that the Democratic Underground posted and linked to a Sharron Angle/Tea Party story from the Review-Journal.

You said "The whole point here is that Righthaven HAS sued more than 100 sites for similar alleged infractions. None of the defendants got cease/desist letters."

Your post acts as if this makes the lawsuits legitimate. It does not. Anyone can sue for any reason. I felt the cease and desist letters should be the first step to correct the infringment. The lawsuit can go as far as Righthaven and the Courts are willing to go, but sooner or later, they will stop. The settling of some lawsuits prove that people will avoid lawsuits, not that the lawsuit has any merit, which YOU should know.

Personally, I think Righthaven will be risking a lot more if they sue Sharron Angle. There's the political and public perception fallout.

Your quote "I'm applying the arguments Righthaven has made and the actions Righthaven has taken and noting that they have no choice but to sue the Angle campaign if they want to remain consistent."

To be consistent means they are a shakedown artist. It's a shame that you think this is fine, especially coming from a journalist. I'm not sure if you are for fair use, but you definitely want to embarrass Sharron Angle.