I wanted to share my opinion about what has been going on lately in copyright enforcement online by a company called Righthaven. Righthaven is a copyright enforcement company that scours the internet looking for copyrighted material owned by Stephens Media newspaper Las Vegas Review Journal, Denver Post and some smaller partners.
When Righthaven finds material owned by their partners they buy the rights, then file suit against the offending website. Righthaven typically demands $75,000 or $150,000 as well as forfeiture of the domain although most settle for much smaller amounts and it appears all accused website owners have kept their domains. Righthaven does not send website owners any type of demand to remove the content, they simply file a lawsuit.
Righthaven has gone after website owners, both for profit and non profit. These include bloggers and people from any industry or profession. They have sued politicians and well known sites. They have even gone after individual posters on forums. They do this even when the work is backlinked and the original producer of the content is credited. They are equal opportunity copyright enforcers.
I totally respect copyrights. I have had my work stolen from me countless times on the internet. I have had paragraphs or even entire websites stolen word for word. It is a terrible feeling. Still the fact that this is a third party filing lawsuits, while somewhat related to the copyright theft victims, is not proper in my opinion. Righthaven is not the actual victim. They are simply a company that looks for the copied work, then obtain the rights to the work and file lawsuits. In my opinion they are nothing but a lawsuit factory, a troll scouring blogs and forums looking to sue people. To me this is not a legitimate business.
Nobody should be using other people’s work without consent but you can protect yourself from an honest mistake. First don’t quote articles from Righthaven partners in any way even if you give them credit and link to them. These sites include LVRJ.com and Denverpost.com. Even if you feel your article would fall under fair use why link to their sites if they act this way?
You should also post and register a DMCA notice. When you do this with the U.S. Copyright Office it will include who to contact to have infringing work removed. This should help cover you.
If you own a forum you should not allow posters to quote anything from Stephens Media sites such as LVRJ.com and Denverpost.com. I would even go so far as not allowing them to link to their sites. While it seems Righthaven is now going after forum posters and not the owners you should still try to protect your posters and yourself. There is no need to receive bad press when one of your posters gets sued. It may drag you into the mess as well.
According to the Las Vegas Sun 238 people have been sued by Righthaven in the past year for copyright violations. While more and more people are standing up to Righthaven and denouncing their behavior the lawsuits are still going on no matter how much the newspaper reputations get hurt. In my opinion the behavior of all involved is disgusting and I will never touch anything either newspaper is involved in. Until this lawsuit factory is shut down by the legal system I hope everyone else will do the same.