Friday, June 17, 2011

My Only Reaction

So Sad Shermy wrote another diatribe responding to this. Given that his premise is that I don't value the fight against copyright theft and that's so obviously untrue to anyone who can read or listen to the radio, I can't see the point of bothering to rebut any of his other silliness. Besides, it appears his many commenters have handled that for me. I'll let you go find it for yourself if you wish, but I'm not all that eager to perpetuate this nonsense. My remarks are analysis of facts; his are just invented inanity. You can't argue with invented inanity.

But I am fascinated by one particular comment on Sad Shermy's blog from none other than unceremoniously dumped former editor Thomas Mitchell, whose lengthy tenure at the helm was honored by the company with about a full sentence deep in a news release. Here's what he wrote about my prior post regarding the debacle in which Righthaven, the law firm partnering with the R-J to sue folks who lifted their material, got spanked in court:

I really don't care what Friess has to say on any topic. But I take considerable umbrage with the last paragraph of his meandering screed:

"It's quite unlikely that Thevenot would've been able to cover this quite so properly if Sherm were still in charge. So there's that."

I assure you Friess was never in any position whatsoever to evaluate the integrity, ethics or journalistic values of anyone in management at the newspaper. If Sherm were still in charge, if anything, the story might've gotten more prominent play.

I defend that stance against all comers.

That is a stunning moment of dishonesty and imperiousness if ever there was one. EVERY reader is in a position to evaluate the integrity, ethics and journalistic values of a publication and its editorial choices. This perspective tracks back to that time that Mitchell wrote a column about how much he despised bloggers because they borrow and reference other work. That post borrowed and referenced Orwell, but he didn't catch the irony. Mitchell's had a rough go of the changes in the business, as reflected in that column as well as this comment, because, essentially, he found it maddening that he and his no longer could decide who gets to voice their views. Mitch couldn't dictate or moderate the public discourse anymore thanks to the Internet, and it drove him bananas.

But beyond that, I find it pretty hilarious that Mitchell suggests Sad Shermy would have dictated bigger, broader coverage of this week's action in which a judge smacked around Sad Shermy and his lawyers for possibly deceiving the courts. He can try to "defend that stance to all comers," except there's this little problem:

That's a search of the Review-Journal archive for the term "Righthaven." It may look like a lot, but five of the eight entries are actually blog posts by Sad Shermy. That means that in the course of the past year, as more than 200 Righthaven lawsuits were being filed and this unusual way to combat copyright fraud was being covered intensively by the national/journalism/tech media, the R-J printed a grand total of THREE proper news stories and no letters.

It gets better! The first, as I mentioned, was when they sued Senate candidate Sharron Angle. The second was when they sued the Drudge Report. And the third was yesterday, when a judge castigated them for alleged dishonesty.

Tom Mitchell and Sad Shermy were fired in November. Two of the three of those pieces ran after that. So they presided over precisely one single story on their nationally newsworthy and unique campaign against copyright fraud.

Yet Mitchell would like us to believe he and Sad Shermy would have INSISTED on full, ever more prominent coverage of this decision! Because, uh, they committed all of 482 words to the matter under their oversight of the newspaper?

As the kids say: For realz?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

LVW Col: Leaving (Out) Las Vegas At The Capitol

As many of you know, I have a thing for visiting state capitols. So I was surprised to find this when I was in Carson City. Enjoy. -sf

Nevada’s Capitol ignores sin and our city, but we can change that


If you wander around the Nevada Capitol in Carson City, you can learn quite a bit about every rock that was ever pulled from the earth anywhere in this state. You can read about several significant laws created and Supreme Court cases decided there from its 1871 opening until legislative and court buildings were constructed nearby to house those branches. Heck, you’ll even find out that the fence around the faux-silver-domed structure was built to keep animals out because the Real Housewives of Early Statehood didn’t cotton to grazing their skirt hems in dung.

Here’s what you won’t find out about: Gambling. Or Las Vegas. Or legal prostitution. You know, the three things that make Nevada interesting to the rest of the world.

Among my list of peculiar hobbies is a fetish for state capitol buildings. I’ve visited 34 of them so far, including those in Lansing, Des Moines, Lincoln and Cheyenne in the past year.

Last month, on a reporting trip to Reno, I realized I’d been to Carson City on assignment many times but never to the Nevada Capitol. So I made my partner drop me off—he finds the whole nerdy thing endearing but dull—so I could see what my own state had to offer.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Judge Sticks Fork In Righthaven-RJ Model Thanks To Stupid Shermy

I really should have known.

Last year, I took the unusual step here and in the Las Vegas Weekly of supporting something that now-disgraced former Stephens Media publisher Sherman Frederick was up to. It surprised many colleagues, but I thought it showed a certain imagination that was both surprising and admirable.

But I should have known. If Frederick was involved -- and especially if he related to the Internet -- then it couldn't possibly be executed properly. And because it wasn't, what could have been an innovative and valuable method of contending with rampant copyright theft on the Internet is probably dead. It is extremely unlikely others will try it now.

The general idea had been that R-J owner Stephens Media assigns over the copyright to R-J work and then this Vegas-based firm called Righthaven, run by public relations moron Stephen Gibson (left via CalvinAyre.Com), would file lawsuits seeking to punish folks all over the Web who believed that they could steal it and post it on their own sites without paying for it. Many whined that it was cruel, that the thieves deserved a warning to pull down the material before they needed a lawyer, and in many cases the lawsuits were filed against very small entities whose readerships were hardly any bigger than what mine would be if I cut something out of the paper and hung it on my fridge.

Still, as a freelancer whose work has been dramatically devalued by a Web culture that believes that anything anywhere is free, I admired the creativity here. The problem is just too extensive to be cost-effective to address internally, so Stephens Media created a profit motive for someone else to behave as their enforcer. Several lawsuits were ham-handed and Gibson never quite understood that a newspaper has certain unusual elements; you don't go suing people who give you terrific scoops just because they posted a copy of the scoop's story, for instance, and you lose the battle in the court of public opinion when you sue cat bloggers or people with mental disabilities.

But when other major news organizations or other journalists who should know better rip off your content, it seemed to be fair game. And it was because of me that we got some of the most entertaining wrinkles in this story, the wonderfully timed lawsuit against Sharon Angle and the efforts to go after several massive sites because of use of the awesome but utterly inaccurate Vdara Death Ray graphic.

Ahh, but I overestimated Sherman Frederick by a factor of many. He wanted to have his cake and eat it, too, and, as usual, everything he touches turns to sand. Good luck, Hawthorne, Eureka and Ely!

Yesterday, a Nevada judge pretty much pulled the plug, declaring that the whole arrangement had been unlawful and announcing he's considering fining Righthaven and Stephens for taking the courts and more than 200 defendants on a bit of a ride. The problem?

Well, Stephens never actually, truly and fully gave up the copyrights. They wanted to give Righthaven the ability to pursue these lawsuits but not real ownership over the material. And then Righthaven opted not to disclose in court that there was a profit-sharing element to these suits and that the R-J was a third, interested party. Here's David Kravets of Wired.Com with the explanation:

[The judge] suggested Righthaven likely duped other judges to allow lawsuits on behalf of Stephens Media copyrights to go forward.

“Making this failure more egregious, not only did Righthaven fail to identify Stephens Media as an interested party in this suit, the court believes that Righthaven failed to disclose Stephens Media as an interested party in any of its approximately 200 cases filed in this district,” Hunt ruled. “Accordingly, the court orders Righthaven to show cause, in writing, no later than two weeks from the date of this order, why it should not be sanctioned for this flagrant misrepresentation to the court.”

An internal agreement between Righthaven and Stephens Media gives the Review-Journal’s owner and Righthaven each a 50 percent stake in any settlements or verdicts. The accord said Stephens Media shall retain “an exclusive license to exploit the Stephens Media assigned copyrights for any lawful purpose whatsoever and Righthaven shall have no right or license to exploit or participate in the receipt of royalties from the exploitation of the Stephens Media assigned copyrights other than the right to proceeds in association with a recovery.”

So here's the thing: Holy shiz. What possible reason did Righthaven withhold that the R-J was interested party or what the business arrangement was? If I recall correctly, Gibson always claimed that such information was "proprietary," that it was the secret sauce of his business model. Except that EVERYBODY ALREADY KNEW that this was the arrangement, everybody except, officially, the court. And the financial deal turned out to be ... a 50/50 split. What's so secret about that? That's what everyone would have assumed, right?

So now, as a parting gift to Stephens Media, the disgraced former publisher Sherman Frederick has left a legal morass that may haunt the company for years and cost it considerably more in legal fees and potential judgments than this arrangement would ever have brought in. If I were allowed, I would honest-to-God consider flying in from my Michigan fellowship to see an inept Frederick fondle a coffee cup while being vivisected on a witness stand over this, so stupid a screw-up was this error.

And the saddest part is that copyright theft on the Internet is killing the media. It's very dangerous. The actual complaints being made by Righthaven, in many instances, were perfectly valid and I was glad someone was making them. This judge is NOT saying that they weren't meritorious.

No, he's saying something worse, that Sherm and his partners were sloppy idiots who failed on a major technicality. And I guess I should've known they would.

There is one promising post-script, however. The Review-Journal, which had really only covered their own unique copyright lawsuit campaign when they sued Angle, did cover this decision. You know, like a newspaper should. And, as of this writing, it's the second-top story on their website, so they're not burying it. Carri Geer Thevenot even got sniveling comments from Gibson such as:

"It's important to recognize that Righthaven respects the judiciary and respects judicial decisions."


"We certainly hope that we will be given that opportunity with respect to the other cases that have standing at issue. But that is with absolutely no disrespect to Judge Hunt and his decision."

It's quite unlikely that Thevenot would've been able to cover this quite so properly if Sherm were still in charge. So there's that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ailing Adelson's Woes Spelling Trouble For Newt?

The delightful Allison Hoffman, fiance to my close friend and former Vegas gaming scribe Adam Goldman, has a fascinating piece on TabletMag.Com today about Sheldon Adelson and how the SEC investigation into his Macau dealings could further damage the already moribund Newt Gingrich For President campaign. It's interesting stuff; Hoffman reports that Adelson has funneled $7 million into Gingrich's PAC but may not be willing to pony up much more until he's out of the woods legally and the stock has popped up a bit higher. That could be too late for the desperate and flailing Gingrich effort.

But two specific things caught my eye. First, Hoffman was in L.A. on Sunday because Gingrich was speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition fundraiser dinner at which Adelson was expected to appear to receive the Ronald Reagan (of course) Award. But he didn't show up:

His wife, Miriam, told the audience that he was fighting a bad flu—“He is really suffering, leaking from every corner of the eyes, his nose. Not his ears!”

First of all, eww. Secondly, ut oh. Adelson, 77, is not a well man, hasn't been for years. In my 2008 interview with him he first disclosed his leg circulatory disorder, and every time he's in public his eyes look as leaky as she described. Not to be morbid, but if I were a shareholder of Las Vegas Sands, I'd really want to know what the succession plan is. Maybe THIS is why Steve Wynn's being so nice to him.

On the other hand, Hoffman also pointed to something fascinating that shows Adelson can still, at least for now, be in the rarest of form. Last month, the man known by Jon Ralston as Gondolier Numero Uno, rang up the editor of New York's influential Jewish Week newspaper to blow his stack over some critical piece on Newt and the Jews. After he let off that steam, he provided a 30-minute interview that showed him as a careful observer of the GOP presidential sweepstakes. He likes Gingrich and Romney, thinks Tim Pawlenty could crack into the top tier but isn't there yet. And, of course, Barack Obama will destroy Israel and giggle while doing so.

But this is the part I loved:

Adelson said that contrary to some claims, Gingrich was not a hypocrite for leading the effort to impeach President Clinton at a time when, it was later learned, the congressman was having an affair with a House of Representatives staffer 23 years his junior – she is now his third wife.

“He wasn’t going after Clinton for having an affair but because he lied,” Adelson said, adding that Gingrich wasn’t president at the time.

Yeah. That's it.