Saturday, September 4, 2010

R-J Finally Covers Its Own Copyright Efforts

With the exception of some commentary by publisher Sherman Frederick -- and on his blog, not in print, I believe -- the Review-Journal has not covered its own unusual and very newsworthy efforts to enforce its copyrights via a large spate of lawsuits against all sorts of websites. That has been left to Steve Green of the Las Vegas Sun, who has done a terrific job.

Until today.

The decision to sue U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle for $150,000 and ownership of her domain name, it seems, tipped that balance. That moves this matter into a campaign issue rather leaving it as just a journalistic or technology story, so today courts reporter Carri Geer Thevenot put it in print.

Unfortunately, she allowed Righthaven LLC CEO Steve Gibson to reference me incorrectly and didn't provide me any chance to respond, nor did she quote from this blog the passages that would contradict him.

"Hopefully, Mr. Friess will understand that our present action against Ms. Angle demonstrates that we don't follow a political agenda," Gibson said.

Huh? I never said otherwise. In fact, what I said was that because they have shown they wouldn't discriminate on that basis, they were dutibound to follow through on this. On Aug. 23, I wrote:

The Righthaven approach is to sue first, ask questions later and Gibson has been proud of not taking an ideological slant in which sites they attack. This means even if Angle takes these down, they still must sue her and pursue damages.

See? I just thought it would make for a fascinating political sideshow. I had my doubters, of course, but I was right. And that's always fun.

The R-J's first entry here was a straightforward courts story, though, and it lacked any balance other than an attempt to reach the Angle campaign for comment. What Carri didn't do was contact experts in copyright or Internet law to find out or explain to readers how unusual, controversial and legally confusing this effort is. And, by the by, yesterday Righthaven also won a legal victory in which a judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit against a Texas website owner accused of infringement. So at least that could have been mentioned, even if the news broke too late to do the other sort of coverage I just mentioned.

The Angle campaign didn't respond, but Thevenot might have taken notice that they have, in fact, removed the full stories from their site and provided a link after a few paragraphs to the ReviewJournal.Com. Here's an example of what it looked like then...

...and now:

It's also disappointing that Thevenot had access to people who could answer some important questions and either didn't ask or couldn't get those answers. For instance, why did they only sue the campaign for the two pieces when I counted at least half-dozen? Will they now be going after the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, too, and risk angering a potentially very lucrative advertiser? Have they let the Las Vegas Advisor suit languish in order to preserve the source relationship between Anthony Curtis and R-J journalists? On what basis have they settled with some of the defendants?

Also, while I support efforts to enforce copyright, I am skeptical that Righthaven can wrest away a domain name that contains someone else's intellectual property, i.e., someone's name. There is case law on this, as I cited in the prior post. They may be able to sue and even shut down a website, but can they seriously come to possess SharronAngle.Com? And why would they even want to?

Maybe now that the R-J has begun to cover itself, we'll get the answers. In the meantime, let's see where it goes. By not commenting, of course, Angle's side has guaranteed this story gets a few more news cycles before it quiets down, if it does at all.

Friday, September 3, 2010

HOLY SH*T ALERT: The R-J Sues Sharron Angle

They actually did it.

The Review-Journal's copyright-enforcing arm, Righthaven LLC, has sued their own darling candidate for Senate, Sharron Angle, just as I said they would have to on Aug 23.

The Las Vegas Sun's Steve Green reported a half-hour ago that Righthaven, on behalf of the R-J, is seeking $150,000 in damages from Angle personally and the forfeiture of her domain name, SharronAngle.Com.

What did I tell you? The fun, indeed, starts now. The campaign will have to defend itself against stealing content, which they really cannot do because contrary to what one diligent commenter on this blog suggested the last time we had this conversation, it is NOT "fair use" to say, "Here's this neat story about me!" and post the whole thing.

What's even more engrossing here is that Angle and her partisans can't complain that the R-J is biased against her, seeing how both its editor and publisher are on record as rooting really, really hard for her to take down Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In fact, this ties lefties in knots, too, as how will Erin Neff and her phony "journalism accountability project" -- the words of gay activist Rob Schlegel today at a Reid event I was covering -- fit this into their inflexible world view that the R-J is working in insidious ways to bring down the Democratic incumbent?

To be honest, I actually am shocked. When Righthaven CEO Steve Gibson talked to me that day, he refused to let me send him links of the offending material and rejected my suggestion that not suing Angle would weaken the other 100+ cases.

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

Jon Ralston's TV producer, Dana Gentry, called me after the post to ask if I'd asked Gibson or Angle's folks whether the R-J had provided Angle with permission to post the stories. I hadn't asked and Gentry said she'd find out, but I got off the phone realizing that that was, indeed, a serious loophole.

Well, loophole filled in! According to the Sun's story, the lawsuit against Angle states:

“Ms. Angle did not seek permission, in any manner, to reproduce, display, or otherwise exploit the Works (stories)...Ms. Angle was not granted permission, in any manner, to reproduce, display, or otherwise exploit the works.”

Then again, one of my wise commenters here, on Facebook or on Twitter -- so hard to keep track these days -- noted that for the R-J to let her use the stories gratis would be akin to a campaign donation now that they've affixed prices to it and have become so aggressive in addressing it. There could be messy FEC issues therein for everyone involved, including the undeclared, de facto donor.

So here we are, with the only reasonable outcome given Righthaven and the R-J's posture of suing the pants off all sorts of copyright infringers. Their lawsuits are now about to get the notice not just of the journalism and technology media but also political pundits. Don't be surprised to see this image... a pro-Harry Reid TV ad or mailer soon.

This situation has fascinating implications. Sure, they could settle, but the settlement money would probably have to come from campaign coffers, so we'll see it someday. If they don't settle and this goes to trial -- perhaps after Angle wins and becomes a senator -- we will be privy to the web traffic of a major-party Senate candidate's site as a matter of the public record, data that has always rightly been seen as proprietary.

Separate and apart from the question of whether the R-J, via Righthaven, can sue for damages, can they actually seize SharronAngle.Com? I mean, that's her name, her property. There's actually lots of case law -- including a successful suit by Hillary Clinton to wrest her domain name from a cybersquatter -- to show that Angle has pretty strong rights to it. It's a baffling piece of this.

Oh! And while I have your attention, the R-J also now must sue a major potential advertiser, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. I just noticed today, while researching the property for an upcoming update to the VegasMate iPhone app, this:

Click on any of those -- although we only care about the R-J items -- from this site and you DOWNLOAD A PDF OF THE ENTIRE STORY. Fair use? Not even arguable.

The Cosmo is a $4 billion resort due to open in December. That's some deep pockets there, unlike so many that the R-J has already sued! How fun it will be to see the R-J sue a company that could then choose not to dump thousands of dollars into their ad revenues this fall! But they have no choice, do they?

Any which way, grab a bowl of popcorn, dear readers. It's going to be riveting one way or the other. Yes, I support the R-J's efforts. But does that mean I can't get a kick out of how many headaches it actually causes the folks on Bonanza Road?

The Strip is LIVE at 1 p.m. PT Saturday

Summer vacation is over -- to which Miles may rightfully ask, "What summer vacation?!?" -- so we're back on Saturday with a new episode of The Strip featuring MDA Telethon host and foul-mouthed Old Vegas nostalgist Jerry Lewis. Hear about the career resurgence the 84-year-old has in store in coming months and much more.

We'll get started at 1 p.m. at LVRocks.Com with the normal show and then play Lewis interview after Miles leaves for work, around 1:30 p.m. Join us in the chat room and/or listen live!

Or, as the case may be, wait for the podcast by subscribing to it via iTunes or Zune. I'll try to post it later Saturday.

No Petcasts this week. I feel Petcasted out from the big road trip, y'know?

Love For Vegas' Horseshoers, Sous Chefs & Changepersons

Last month, I forgot all about jury duty, then tried to contact the courts to apologize and reschedule. Their phone system frustrated me, so I gave up and decided to wait and see. Then I got another summons, this time for Sept. 13.

Now it looks like that week will be tough for me, so I went online to change it and they OK'd a switch to Nov. 1. Great. The reminder photographed above -- and one tackily posted on the inside of our front door -- should prevent me from forgetting again.

But I was also fascinated by something else. There's a "qualification questionnaire" so I figured I'd fill it out. And the list of potential occupations in there is, well, exhaustive. I've never seen such a complete form. It's as if someone went bonkers trying to come up with every conceivable job.

Like, for instance...

...why does it matter if you're the "sous chef" versus, say, "cook," "chef," or "food service personnel"? Also, how many "senators" or "superintendents" or "presidents" or "congressmen" or "vice presidents" could there be, all of which are entries? Yet notice there's no entry for "politician."

Nice to see our Keno writers...

...and gamblers...

...and changepersons...

...and the all-important "horseshoers" represented.

Is "disabled" a profession, given that there's a choice of indicating unemployed? Are some people professionally disabled? And what's a "draftsman" or "eligibility clerk"? Also, why no respect for dogwalkers?

Way to be all gender-PC about "changepersons" but then they go retro about "airline hostesses." The Steve Slaters of the world aren't..., well, never mind.

And finally, two last things to ponder. Why does Penn Jillette's partner get his own listing...

...and what's an "H?" The only thing I can think of is "hooker."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wrap: The Great Petcast Road Trip

Well, that was fun!

Bye, Emily!

There we are yesterday morning as we parted after five wonderful days of driving, talking, doting on Archie, eating surprisingly healthy and suffering surprisingly little bickering. We delivered Emily safely after 2,100ish miles to Ann Arbor for her prestigious journalism fellowship and, in all that time the only real argument we got into was over using her Garmin GPS system or my iPhone directions app. (For the record, both gizmos had flaws. Garmin likes to send people the wrong way on one-way streets and takes up a lot of space, not to mention the lighter jack; the iPhone relies on sometimes unreliable cell signals and the map is hard to look at when you're, say, on the phone ordering delicious Valentino's pizza per the suggestion of Lincoln native Cara Roberts, aka Norm Clarke's Leggy Blonde.)

There's a load of great photos in this Flickr Set I created, complete with snark and commentary where appropriate. And Emily and I recorded a special 18-minute Petcast episode en route to dropping me at the airport yesterday, so be sure to download and listen to that by either clicking here to make it play or right-clicking here to download it.

Those who followed my Twitter stream knew we stopped in on the icky Herman L. Frank's Dog Park in Salt Lake City...

Archie at SLC dog park, #2

...improbably caught up on the road with Emily's moving van...

Emily's stuff, #2

...raised my total to 33 state capitals visited in Cheyenne, Lincoln and the sensational Des Moines...

Steve @ the Wyoming Capitol
Steve @ The Nebraska Capitol #2
Steve @ The Iowa Capitol #2

...discovered Nebraska State Sen. Dennis Utter and the fact that his dog's name is Putter...

Sen. Utter's Office 45 of 50 states and five Canadian provinces in the license plate game...

45 out of 50!

...had 50-cent ice cream cones at the Little America rest stop in Wyoming, peach shakes at Bauder's Pharmacy in Des Moines (thanks, RoadFood.Com) and Thai -- pumpkin curry! -- in Davenport (thanks, Urbanspoon app)...

Bauder's Pharmacy
Pumpkin Curry at Exotic Thai

...saw my 85-year-old friend Walt's childhood home in Beatrice...

Steve @ Walt's House in Beatrice

...found future gigs for Holly Madison all over Nebraska...

Holly Realty, Kimball, Neb.
Holly Theatre, #1

...puzzled over the skanky mannequin with the gun and the edible G-strings in the closed shop window in Beatrice...

A Little Slice of Hannah's Treasure #2

...and ultimately delivered Emily to her new (temporary, right?) home.

Approaching Chez Emily, #1

Debate still rages over what this thing -- a heater? an air handler? a leftover of a pre-shower era? --
is in Emily's shower.

Emily's odd shower thing

Also, what's wrong with this George Washington portrait in the century-old schoolhouse by Homestead National Monument in Iowa?

Homestead, George Washington

Why are there spikes around the door to the Nebraska Capitol?

Wyoming Capitol, security?

How often do people use flashcubes in Iowa anymore?

Iowa Capitol, warning

Why there was a dictionary on a music stand in the lobby of the Iowa Capitol?

Iowa Capitol, dictionary

There were some interesting innovations, such as the Casper, Wyo., paper's special weather section...

Cheyenne, weather report

...and Cheyenne's Plains Hotel's means of avoiding stained white towels...

Plains Hotel, innovation

... and the advent of audio tours via your cell phone...

Homestead, audio tour

...although that can be improved inasmuch as you can't pause, forward or rewind it and when lots of people are listening on their phone speakers at once, it could be rather irksome, no?

We did learn one thing about Nevada. At the Homestead Monument, they had these sculptures that showed the proportion of the state the feds gave away in the Homestead act. Here's Oregon (I think) and Montana...

Homestead, proportions #2

...there's Florida...

Homestead proportions #4

...and here is Nevada:

Homestead, Screw Nevada

Maybe the Homestead Act could also be known as the Pre-Yucca Screw Nevada Act?

Well, anyhow, we did it. Check out the Flickr page and the podcast. And I leave you with this:



This week's col: Pete Rose's Zen

It seems to be a season of revisiting older stars having new moments. Last week it was Jerry Lewis, this week it's Pete Rose. But their names endure because they don't really ever disappear or give up. So here's the latest on Rose, who seems like a changed man from just three years ago. Enjoy. -sf

The Humble Hustle of Pete Rose

If his face weren’t so famous, I’d be sure I was speaking to a different man. The Pete Rose I met three years ago was bitter, irascible, impatient, fidgety. The guy I sat with last week at the Forum Shops, where he signs autographs for a living, seemed possessed by the Dalai Lama.

There were two reasons to chat up Charlie Hustle now. For the first time since he was banned from baseball for betting on games as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, Rose is being honored on the field at the Reds’ ballpark this month on the 25th anniversary of breaking Ty Cobb’s hit record. Also, seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens is being indicted on charges he lied to Congress about whether he used performance-enhancing drugs.

Rose remains an official pariah, ineligible for the Hall of Fame while people who did real long-term and widespread damage to the game—Clemens, Bonds, A-Rod—remain eligible. Not to mention, have you seen the list of all-around assholes enshrined in Cooperstown?

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Only ? That Matters, Re: Paris Hilton is... what universe is this Monorail Station sign in any way useful, helpful or appropriate?

There's the vacuous socialite being arrested on cocaine possession charges, per this photo that TMZ.Com paid God-knows-what for. You whose life I don't give a damn about? Do you have any clue how thrilled I am to have left Vegas in time for this idiotic story? Or how proud I am that the Casper Star-Tribune, which Emily bought me here in Cheyenne as we proceed to Day Two of the Great Petcast Road Trip, had no trace of Paris' arrest anywhere in the Sunday paper?

What I do care about: How the Las Vegas Monofail gets away with a sign like this, implying there's a station somewhere in the vicinity. Hilton was arrested on the east side of the Strip across from Fashion Show, so outside Wynn. The nearest monorail station south of there is at Harrah's/Imperial Palace. How far a walk is that? I'm betting nearly two miles by the time you get to the backass of those properties.

Check out Google's view of this "public transit" option:

Are they kidding?

Also, are the COLOR Salon publicists from Wicked Creative kidding when they proudly tout in a press release Saturday this thrilling bit of news?

Aug. 27: Paris Hilton was pampered at one of Las Vegas' most luxurious salons, COLOR: A Salon by Michael Boychuck at Caesars Palace on Friday evening. Hilton, a longtime client and friend of Boychuck's, had her signature platinum blonde tresses perfected by Boychuck and his team.

That was accompanied by glamorpuss photos. It's very instructive to know where to go to make sure that county jail mugshot looks just right!

Anyhow, the road trip has been fabulous. We put in 850 miles yesterday, and I've posted loads of pictures and comments via Twitter. This was mile 530:


Off to see the Cheyenne Capitol, then we drive to Lincoln. Have a great Sunday!