Copyright sleuthing (or, What happens in The Las Vegas Review-Journal…)

If I had a time machine, one of my first stops would be newsrooms across the country in the mid-1990s. (My second stop? Where Hall met Oates, of course.)

“This ‘Internet thing’? Not only is it here to stay but it is the future of information sharing,” I’d tell the assembled newspaper people. “Start charging people for your online content now or you’re going to be in a heap of trouble in 20 years.”

I thought about this while reading a story in The Las Vegas Sun about its rival paper’s attempt to prevent websites and bloggers from posting entire stories instead of just links to the source. The Las Vegas Review-Journal‘s “copyright enforcement partner” has sued at least 86 websites for copyright infringement, seeking $75,000 in damages and forfeiture of the domain names.

Here’s how it works, according to the Sun: the R-J’s partner, Righthaven LLC, scours the Internet in search of a copyright infringement. It then purchases the copyright of that specific story from the R-J’s owner and sues the website owner.

Critics acknowledge the paper and Righthaven have copyright claims but accuse them of using heavy-handed tactics on “mom-and-pop” websites, like the lawsuit filed against the cat-centric blog. One journalism professor calls the lawsuits “the McDonald’s coffee cases of copyright litigation — lawful but preposterous.”

I recommend the Vegas Sun’s story, if only for the fantastic analogies involving a 1967 Corvette and a pig. The lesson here is always give credit and link to an original source in your blog posts. (Thanks for the tip, Above the Law! Thanks for the illustration, e-how!)

Because you never know when private eyes are watching you.

One thought on “Copyright sleuthing (or, What happens in The Las Vegas Review-Journal…)

  1. Reminds me of the surge of ADA serial litigation that’s been going on since the 1990s – I think Righthaven may have started a new trend, and it’s only a matter of time before copycats start doing the same thing. I mentioned it in my own blog today, at http://bit.ly/cqY4OX

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