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Righthaven Sues For Control of Drudge Report Domain 161

Posted by Soulskill
from the ask-until-they-say-no dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that in its latest case, Righthaven is seeking relief from copyright infringement by the Drudge Report website and by the Drudge Archives website, and is asking for a preliminary and permanent injunction against infringement on a photo copyright, control of the Drudge Report website and statutory damages up to $150,000. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Righthaven complains about the use of a Denver Post photograph of a Transportation Security Administration agent patting down an airline passenger. Drudge displayed an unauthorized reproduction of the photo on the Drudge Report website on Nov. 18, according to the civil complaint. Shawn Mangano, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on Righthaven's behalf, says it is the first time Righthaven has sued over use of a copyrighted illustration. Righthaven also takes issue with the fact that the Drudge Report has no DMCA takedown regime to respond to those who allege violations of copyright. 'I assume it's going to be very seriously litigated,' says Mangano, noting that Drudge has substantial financial resources." We've discussed previous attempts by Righthaven to turn a quick buck on news-related copyright.
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Righthaven Sues For Control of Drudge Report Domain

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  • Domain seizure? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Monday December 13, 2010 @02:18PM (#34536324)

    Do they really think transferring the domain into their control is even remotely likely? It's one thing when you're talking about a torrent tracker where an injunction alone is unlikely to prevent future infringement. But if the court tells Matt Drudge to take down that photo, I'm pretty sure he'll take it down (once his appeals are exhausted).

    • by icebike (68054)

      Do they really think transferring the domain into their control is even remotely likely? It's one thing when you're talking about a torrent tracker where an injunction alone is unlikely to prevent future infringement. But if the court tells Matt Drudge to take down that photo, I'm pretty sure he'll take it down (once his appeals are exhausted).

      He would probably take it down if they sent him a notice via email.

      Still the idea that you can take a domain and control of a website as well as the statutory damages of 150k is ridiculous. Why not ask for his house, car, and wife?

    • Do they really think transferring the domain into their control is even remotely likely? It's one thing when you're talking about a torrent tracker where an injunction alone is unlikely to prevent future infringement. But if the court tells Matt Drudge to take down that photo, I'm pretty sure he'll take it down (once his appeals are exhausted).

      Judges have been known to do even dumber things. Why not try it out and hope you got a dumb one?

    • I like it! If I find a picture of me up in (let's say), Wal Mart, I 1) ask them to take it down; 2) demand $150,000 for infringement, and 3) I now own Wal Mart! No need for a ??? step at all!

  • Maybe two wrongs DO make a right!

    Smart of them to pick on Drudge. Deep pockets, widely despised.

    • Re:Holy Shit! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by skids (119237) on Monday December 13, 2010 @02:32PM (#34536492) Homepage

      IMO it was stupid to pick on Drudge. If they had brains, they would have picked on some anti-establishment podunk site, one whose rights a properly shopped judge would have no qualms about riding roughshod over, and kept doing it to build up layers of precedent, then tackled something bigger. Drudge may be unpopular among many but it still has a huge following and can draw on support from the right-wing astroturfing machine.

      However, from my perspective I get to watch two organizations I despise hurt each other, so life is grand. Sure in the end it just means more lawyers get to buy outside decks for their fourth homes, but hey, it beats watching high frequency traders cruise around in yachts.

      • Well, then, aren't you glad they don't have brains?

      • OT: Why is that? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by PCM2 (4486) on Monday December 13, 2010 @09:01PM (#34541782) Homepage

        Drudge may be unpopular among many but it still has a huge following and can draw on support from the right-wing astroturfing machine.

        I hear this kind of thing a lot: People hate Drudge, Drudge Report is slanted, biased, etc., etc. I agree that you can see that the Drudge Report editors often like to spin stories a certain way, but I don't see how it's much different than the summaries and headlines on Slashdot. Newspaper editors have always spun headlines to get attention, and headlines are all the Drudge Report really posts. If anything, Drudge doesn't editorialize anywhere near as much as the /. editors do. Maybe the site does tend to lean a bit to the right, but not rabidly so -- I doubt it leans anywhere near right enough for the serious Fox News followers. I find the site to be a very useful aggregator that allows me to skim through stories from various news sources, including ones I wouldn't normally seek out to read. It seems like a valuable service to me, and it's free. Assuming you're capable of thinking for yourself when you read a headline, what's not to like?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why despise Drudge Report? All it does is post links to articles. Slashdot summaries are more biased than Drudge Report posts.

      And BTW, I knew I would see a lot of people on /. waiver in their anti copyright stance on this one.

      • Re:Holy Shit! (Score:5, Informative)

        by mattack2 (1165421) on Monday December 13, 2010 @03:27PM (#34537236)

        Why despise Drudge Report?

        Because he started out as a spammer, spamming tons and tons and tons of newsgroups, including rec.arts.tv, which is where I saw his spamming. He'd spam his off topic 'report' there, _and_ would never see the various corrections to factual errors he very often made.

        He's no better than the Green Card Lawyers.

  • I'll admit I don't know anything about Righthaven, had to look them up, but I'm wondering why they would ask for (or have any hope of getting) control of the web site? The statutory damages and removal of infringing content I can understand, but why would they possibly get control over something due to copyright infringement, especially for content they don't own? Are they filing at the request of the News Media Group?

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      I'll admit I don't know anything about Righthaven, had to look them up, but I'm wondering why they would ask for (or have any hope of getting) control of the web site?

      Indeed. Since they're claiming that Drudge is a copyright violator, surely the US government should just steal his domain and hand it over to the lawyers without the hassle of a court case?

    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday December 13, 2010 @02:24PM (#34536392)
      Lawyers love to make idle threats and request compensation that they know they have a snowball's chance in hell of actually collecting. It's a bargaining tactic. I'm sure nobody actually expects to have Druge's domain handed over to them, as much as some of us would like to see that happen.
      • Lawyers love to make idle threats and request compensation that they know they have a snowball's chance in hell of actually collecting.

        It's too bad there's no penalty for doing this. Seems to me the court system would function better if there were less frivolous garbage clogging things up.

        • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Monday December 13, 2010 @03:02PM (#34536806)

          Lawyers love to make idle threats and request compensation that they know they have a snowball's chance in hell of actually collecting.

          It's too bad there's no penalty for doing this.

          There no penalties for doing it, but there are penalties for not doing it. I was sued, and decided to fight it pro per (without a lawyer). I did some research while preparing my response to the complaint, and found out it is standard practice to list every possible defense, even when they don't apply, because if some other evidence some to light, you cannot add another defense later. So everyone includes pages and pages of standardized superfluous boilerplate. Lawyers recognize this stuff and just skim over it.

          Seems to me the court system would function better if there were less frivolous garbage clogging things up.

          Both lawyers and judges benefit from a clogged, inefficient system. Since 85% of politicians are also lawyers, there is little chance things will change.

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          I recall another poster on Slashdot in another legal-related article stating that lawyers are taught to file every motion they conceivably can - no matter how ridiculous - just in case it flies. There's no real penalty to filing a motion that barely has a chance of going through.

      • as much as some of us would like to see that happen

        Why? Do your political opponents not deserve free speech?

    • by clone52431 (1805862) on Monday December 13, 2010 @02:27PM (#34536422)

      That’s their MO.

      Another recent case by them asked for the same thing: [arstechnica.com]

      Nelson put eight sentences of a 30-sentence Review Journal article in one of his posts, along with a link back to the paper; for this he was sued in federal court.

      Righthaven demanded that his domain name should be locked and transferred to Righthaven. In addition, the company demanded "willful" statutory damages for copyright infringement, which can be as high as $150,000.

      Also, what I don’t understand is this:

      Righthaven sends no cease-and-desist letters before suing.

      The DMCA is clear-cut about how to handle infringement. A company that side-steps the normal DMCA takedown process (which might have to be snail-mailed – that’s not quick enough for them though!) should have no right to straight away sue the infringing party. None whatsoever. But apparently they can, legally, get away with it.

      • Sounds sloppy to me. Doesn't the lack of a cease-and-desist give an opening to the defense to have the suit dismissed? The legal system is more about procedure than anything else, so not following procedure can really set you back if the other side catches on to it.

        • Sounds sloppy to me. Doesn't the lack of a cease-and-desist give an opening to the defense to have the suit dismissed?

          Probably not.

          The legal system is more about procedure than anything else, so not following procedure can really set you back if the other side catches on to it.

          True, but I don't think you'll find any applicable provision of law requiring a C&D before filing a lawsuit over the offenses alleged in this case.

        • Doesn't the lack of a cease-and-desist give an opening to the defense to have the suit dismissed?

          No.... Actually, the biggest reasons to send a cease-and-desist are (a) to avoid having to file a lawsuit by causing the offender to stop infringing, and (b) to provide notice to the offender that they are infringing, so that if they continue to infringe, the notice can be provided as evidence in court that the infringement was (eventually) willful.

      • In some countries, judges look extremely unfavourably on people who sue first and ask questions later, without attempting to settle things out of court, through less drastic channels. I don't know if the US courts take a similar view.

        • I believe they do, but I don't have a link to back that up.

        • Blue Stone writes

          In some countries, judges look extremely unfavourably on people who sue first and ask questions later, without attempting to settle things out of court, through less drastic channels. I don't know if the US courts take a similar view.

          An example from The Lawyers Weekly, Vol. 20, No. 39 (February 23, 2001) was The federal Crown has been ordered to pay $55,000 in costs to two men after a Nova Scotia judge stayed drug-trafficking charges against them based on the "serious misconduct" of prosecutors and police.

          Canadian judges seemingly get grumpy when anyone tries to bamboozle them, including the Crown prosecutor (:-))

          --dave

      • The DMCA is clear-cut about how to handle infringement. A company that side-steps the normal DMCA takedown process (which might have to be snail-mailed – that’s not quick enough for them though!) should have no right to straight away sue the infringing party.

        That's not what the DMCA says.

        The DMCA provides a takedown process that is directed at innocent service providers hosting information provided independently by users, and creates a safe harbor for the service provider only (so long as the se

        • I was getting the terminologies mixed which made my post unclear.

          Yeah, the DMCA “takedown notice” is a method of dealing with an independent content host. But under the DMCA you can also send a cease-and-desist notice to the infringing party personally. However they’ve made it their practice to just immediately sue.

          • Yeah, the DMCA “takedown notice” is a method of dealing with an independent content host. But under the DMCA you can also send a cease-and-desist notice to the infringing party personally.

            You can always (the DMCA has nothing to do with this) send a cease-and-desist notice to someone who you believe is violating your legal rights. This is typically done when you believe that the probability and result of resolving the issue via a cease-and-desist is worth the additional delay it imposes over fili

      • IIRC the DMCA only applies to user-produced content. Drudge posts everything himself, so he's not subject to the safe-harbor at all.

        IANAL, TINLA, I might be wrong.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday December 13, 2010 @02:33PM (#34536504) Journal
      The domain name is an asset, with some value. It isn't unheard of to request a specific asset, rather than a financial payment, as damages. Of course, there is often a very large difference between the damages that are requested and the damages that are granted by the court. The only cases I've heard of where a domain name has changed hands as the result of legal action have been trademark cases, but I haven't actually searched for relevant cases so there may well be other examples.
    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday December 13, 2010 @02:37PM (#34536536)
      What you apparently are unaware of is that Righthaven is a company that was created by one or more newspapers in order to sue others for copyright infringement without getting the newspapers' own names on the lawsuit. Righthaven exists solely for the purpose of suing people for copyright infringement. One or more newspapers "sell" their copyright to Righthaven in return for the right to publish the material as the newspaper sees fit. Righthaven then sues anyone else who uses and/or links to that material for copyright infringement.
    • by Chapter80 (926879)

      As someone else said, lawyers make huge demands, just as positioning in a lawsuit - for leverage.

      The beauty of this threat (taking the domain name) is that it is a reasonable answer to the issue "How much damage did you really suffer from us using your photo."

      "We're not asking for much - domain names are $30/year at Go Daddy. That seems about an even trade."

      Point is, damage is well beyond the price of the image.

      • ...except that no judge would allow that particular argument unless he was a complete tosser who had never worked in, around, or with a business in his life.

        The whole reason for copyrighting company names, the whole reason for brand names on websites and on products--hell, the entire justification for the concept of a 'trademark'--is summed up in a line-item in corporate accounts: Goodwill.

        Goodwill is an attempt by the beancounters to make tangible the company's reputation--the name brand recognition, the
        • by deniable (76198)

          ...except that no judge would allow that particular argument unless he was a complete tosser who had never worked in, around, or with a business in his life.

          Inconceivable.

    • I'll admit I don't know anything about Righthaven, had to look them up, but I'm wondering why they would ask for (or have any hope of getting) control of the web site?

      Righthaven always asks for that in their suits; AFAIK, every one of them has been settled without going to trial. Whether they could get it is debatable; I would assume their basis for asking is a rather expansive interpretation of the forfeiture provisions in copyright law. Until there's a case that firmly says they don't extend that far, th

    • by Zerth (26112)

      It's bad enough when the government is stealing domain names, but if copyright trolls start doing it too, I want to move my domain names to someplace safer.

      Is there such a place, or should I just look into .cn addresses?

      • by Kalriath (849904)

        Are you in China? If not, a .cn is out of the question.

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        Get a memorable IP address, make a jingle, and leave domain names behind.
        "That's One Twenty-seven dot OhDotOhDot one.."

        Or repeat it like the head-on commercials. 127.0.0.1! 127.0.0.1! 127.0.0.1! We said 127.0.0.1!
  • While I think that Righthaven(nice doublethink name right there) is just a huge troll and doesn't deserve a cent, it's possible they have a leg to stand on legally here. Images in the news industry have a precedent of being licensed so if one that was owned by Righthaven was used without authorization by the Drudge Report then that's different from their attempting to claim that they "owned" a news story.
    • What they're claiming they own is a specific written version of an event, which is also supported by a wide body of copyright law protecting written works.

      Not that I agree with them, but their argument isn't wholly ridiculous.

    • Re:Copyrighted Image (Score:4, Interesting)

      by pugugly (152978) on Monday December 13, 2010 @02:30PM (#34536456)

      I suspect you're right - as much as I hate to 'root' for either of these two, Righthaven may have a valid infringement case here; The Drudge Report is hardly creating anything additional in a story. Of course, going from infringement and the thought that a DMCA complaint can be actually valid (Valid DMCA complaints! Who Knew?) to grabbing a domain name rather than the simple damages seems a bit odd.

      Pug

    • The image may very well be copyrighted. However, since both sides are news outlets, Drudge has more than valid claim to fair use of the image. Especially considering that the image was likely only one small part of the article that he linked to. If Righthaven wins on this case, then it may as well go after Google News next (it has snippits AND images). But hasn't that already been tried??
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Monday December 13, 2010 @02:27PM (#34536432)
    ...thereby bankrupting both and teaching us all a very important lesson. Never try.
    • ...thereby bankrupting both and teaching us all a very important lesson. Never try.

      Funny?

      With any luck both parties will bankrupt themselves and the lawyers will get themselves disbarred.

  • ctrl+f "DMCA" in that article doesn't find anything. Has this Righthaven organization heard of the DMCA, and the provisions it provides for relief from copyright infringement? Seems like a textbook case for a DMCA takedown notice. IANAL, but I imagine a judge will take one look at this and say "did you even TRY to work something out with the infringing party before litigating?"
    • ctrl+f "DMCA" in that article doesn't find anything.

      You must have been looking at the wrong article, then:

      “This lawsuit, though, is a rarity insofar as copyright infringement being connected to linking. Righthaven takes issue with the fact that the Drudge Report has no DMCA takedown regime to respond to those who alleged violations of copyright.”

      Has this Righthaven organization heard of the DMCA, and the provisions it provides for relief from copyright infringement?

      It would seem not: [arstechnica.com]

      Righthaven sends no cease-and-desist letters before suing.

      I imagine a judge will take one look at this and say "did you even TRY to work something out with the infringing party before litigating?"

      You’d certainly hope so, but apparently not.

    • ctrl+f "DMCA" in that article doesn't find anything.

      Then you are looking at the wrong linked article. If you read the one linked from the sentence in TFS about the DMCA ("Righthaven also takes issue with the fact that the Drudge Report has no DMCA takedown regime to respond to those who allege violations of copyright") surprisingly enough contains the exact sentence that is in TFS.

      Has this Righthaven organization heard of the DMCA

      Since their lawsuit includes complaints about Drudge Report not following the

  • I wonder if the Drudge report just linked to the image. If so, that should definitely be legal.

    The HTML spec and or http spec should make it clear (are they even licensed?)
    that it is always de-facto legal to create a link (anywhere) to content that has been
    published and is publicly accessible on the world wide web,
    so long as the content is legal to view.
    i.e. re-linking to child porn could still be illegal, as it is collaborating in the crime, but
    everything else is legal.

    Those that wish to restrict access to

    • I wonder if the Drudge report just linked to the image.

      No, they posted the photograph with their story as an "illustration".

      The HTML spec and or http spec should make it clear (are they even licensed?)
      that it is always de-facto legal to create a link (anywhere) to content that has been
      published and is publicly accessible on the world wide web,
      so long as the content is legal to view.

      Neither IETF nor W3C have any authority to dictate what is legal and what is not legal.

      • "Neither IETF nor W3C have any authority to dictate what is legal and what is not legal."

        No but they could give authoritative guidance to the courts about what the assumed
        intent is when one is publishing content on a publicly accessible portion of the world wide web.

        They can state that there exists a legal entity called the "World Wide Web",
        whose incarnation is the sum total of content accessible directly or indirectly
        by hyperlinks which have themselves been made publicly known by the publisher.

        They could s

        • No but they could give authoritative guidance to the courts about what the assumed
          intent is when one is publishing content on a publicly accessible portion of the world wide web.

          No, they can't provide authoritative guidance to courts on presumed intent.

          Presumed intent, where that matters in a legal case, a question on which some of the content of standards documents might in some cases have some persuasive weight, they certainly would not be "authoritative" on the question of presumed intent.

          If you want to

          • IANALBIPOOTI I Am Not A Lawyer But I Play One On The Internet

            I think there's a good argument that:

            1. The WWW is supra-national.
            2. Its defining technical standards (adherence to them), and common conventional use
            of those standards in the contrstruction of and participation in the world wide web
            constitute the basis of a global-in-scope COMMON LAW that should be given serious
            weight in adjudications of such matters by lower (narrower than global in scope) courts.

            • I think there's a good argument that:

              1. The WWW is supra-national.
              2. Its defining technical standards (adherence to them), and common conventional use
              of those standards in the contrstruction of and participation in the world wide web
              constitute the basis of a global-in-scope COMMON LAW that should be given serious
              weight in adjudications of such matters by lower (narrower than global in scope) courts.

              There may be such an argument, but you haven't made it, and it seems to be pretty unlikely that such an argume

              • "There may be such an argument, but you haven't made it"
                Its a prima facie case. The world wide web is both tautologically and self-evidently
                a global entity created and used by persons worldwide
                prior to its ordinary use having been regulated in any meaningful sense nationally.

                The onus is on national legislatures to write law that explicitly takes away rights
                to use the WWW as it was self-evidently intended (by virtue of its design) to be used.
                Such laws must define what kind of act linking is compared to other

        • by bhtooefr (649901)

          Alternately, what they could have done is something like this:

          Patent some critical component of HTTP
          Write a small bit of code that implements that patent
          License that bit of code under a license that is like the GPL3, but with an additional clause stating that by using this code, you agree that anyone can link to any content made publicly available

          Problem is, then nobody would've adopted HTTP.

  • In most statutes, it's legally dangerous to even point a gun at a team of thieves who've parked a van in front of your house and who are systematically robbing you. Someone "steals" a picture that is probably worth a few hundred dollars and has no real value apart from the original story... $150k in possible statutory damages.

    This isn't a sign that we're sophisticated or advanced as a society. It says we're a bloody banana republic where the common man has no legally sure way to defend what is his, but some

    • by NiceGeek (126629)

      I'm sorry, are you trying to convince us that Mike Drudge represents "the common man"?

    • In most statutes, it's legally dangerous to even point a gun at a team of thieves who've parked a van in front of your house and who are systematically robbing you....It says we're a bloody banana republic

      People like to make fun of Texas, but you gotta give us credit where credit is due. You hear stories a few times a year of homeowners scaring off robbers with a shotgun or rifle.

    • by radish (98371)

      Or maybe it shows that we see a difference between threatening to kill someone (which is what you're doing, implicitly or explicitly, if you point a gun at them) and filing suit against them in court. I would MUCH rather lose a $150k law suit than be shot - just saying.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday December 13, 2010 @02:38PM (#34536554) Homepage

    Drudge's page is mostly a directory of links with the occasional thumbnail picture. Google already won a case in which it was decided that thumbnail images in connection with a directory of links was a transformative use, and thus was considered fair use. Drudge is driving traffic to the newspaper that published the image, just as Google does.

    Drudge is going to win this, if Righthaven even litigates it, which is unlikely.

  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Monday December 13, 2010 @03:17PM (#34537022)

    DMCA takedown notifications are handled by ISPs. Website operators don't have to do anything special to accommodate them. It doesn't look like Brightcove's lawyers are very bright. Must be the inbreeding.

  • I've always been confused about how meta news isn't news itself and therefore constitutionally protected. If the denver post (or the AP) posts a picture, and someone republishes that picture as 'news' because they reported it, how is that not journalism in itself. Is all copyrighted material off limits as 'news'? (headline, 'the denver post published this picture today claiming that ... '

    My gut would tell me, although I'm not a lawyer, that since reproduction for educational purposes is 'fair use' (whic

  • Shawn Mangano, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on Righthaven's behalf, says it is the first time Righthaven has sued over use of a copyrighted illustration.

    He then added, "So, immediately taking complete administrative, editorial, and publishing control of a website IS the right amount of punishment to expect for unauthorized use of one single image, right? I mean, we ARE new at this, we don't want to look like overreacting jackasses who don't know what we're talking about. That'd just be embarrassing!"

    Actually, I take that back. Given what the MPAA/RIAA seem to want, that seems light of a punishment.

  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Monday December 13, 2010 @03:31PM (#34537314) Homepage Journal

    It's time for LVRJ to get what they've asked for: to be left alone. Completely. Utterly. Don't mention them, don't link to them, don't discuss them, don't acknowledge that they exist. Let that be the last $150,000 of income they ever collect. If they don't want publicity, respect their wishes and let them die off in a corner by themselves.

  • Drudge makes money, and these charlatans want to be paid. I'm sure they are trolling for a cheap settlement.

    If Drudge fights this (and he will, he's in the free speech business) this one shouldn't last very long, first off, even if he used a photo, it's covered by fair use, and secondly, is Righthaven the copyright owner? If they aren't, they have no standing.

    These righthaven lawyers need to be disbarred. They are the Jack Thompson of insane IP barratry.

  • For acting in such an obviously cartooney evil way. But next time, instead of just demanding control of a well-known blog over one lousy picture, and thus starkly outlining the dangers of copyright w.r.t. the First Amendment, could you work in a lawsuit against an 8-year old or something?

    Seriously, of course Drudge wouldn't have a DMCA process; it's not applicable in cases where the publisher is exercising editorial control over the contents.

    • Seriously, of course Drudge wouldn't have a DMCA process; it's not applicable in cases where the publisher is exercising editorial control over the contents.

      Its possible this particular claim was put into the lawsuit to pre-empt any potential invocation of the DMCA Safe Harbor by Drudge. While you know, and I know, that Drudge isn't a host of user-posted, unedited, content, you don't rely on common knowledge in a lawsuit if you want to win.

  • In this case the winners will be the lesser of the evils involved, the lawyers.

    With the best result being Rightshaven's lawyer taking this case on contingency and not getting paid either.

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