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April 24, 2014

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copyright law:

Defendants in R-J copyright lawsuits speak out

The following are some of the nonprofits, individuals and companies sued by Righthaven.

• acdc-bootlegs.com and its owner, Nate Althoff, both accused of posting R-J material about an AC/DC concert in Las Vegas. Court records show the AC/DC bootleg website has posted numerous AC/DC concert reviews by publications including the Des Moines Register, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Louisville Courier-Journal and the Kansas City Star. After the suit was filed, Althoff posted these updates on the website:

“June 28 ­­— After working with a friend-of-the-family that is a lawyer in the copyright field, we’ve found that Righthaven LLC is not willing to dismiss the lawsuit. I am currently working with them on a settlement and will end up paying a bunch of money. It appears they are not interested in taking ownership of the website or domain, so I will hopefully be able to retain that much. At this point, I’m just hoping that the settlement amount is something that I can manage. First indications are that it will be more than I’ve made overall from the site in the 6 1/2 years I’ve been running it, so it’s pretty frustrating considering I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.”

“July 7 — Reached a settlement with Righthaven. It is what I expected, but not what I had hoped for. I will be doing some digging to come up with the total as they want it very soon.”

• Armed Citizen and two officials there, David Burnett and Clayton Cramer.

R-J stories involving citizens using guns to protect themselves allegedly were posted on the www.thearmedcitizen.com website. Cramer, a software writer and historian in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, near Boise, said he created the nonprofit website in 2003 to document instances of firearms being used in self defense and since then has posted portions of 4,700 news stories.

This is the first instance of a news organization objecting to such a posting and Cramer said it was “astonishing” that Righthaven would file suit without it or the R-J first asking that the stories be taken off the site. He said Righthaven’s $75,000 damage claim was ridiculous given that the stories were still available on the R-J website for free — meaning, he said, that any damages that have been sustained couldn’t amount to more than a few hundred dollars.

“I’m incensed. If these attorneys feel any jury in Nevada will go along with this, they are delusional,” Cramer said.

• Commerce CRG Utah LLC, Commerce Consolidated LLC and Rodney Gibson. Righthaven says their commercial real estate website www.comre.com posted an R-J story about retail sales trends in Nevada. The website says Commerce Real Estate Solutions has offices in Las Vegas, Utah and Washington state and is part of the Cushman & Wakefield Alliance. The COMRE blog includes stories by the Las Vegas Sun, the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Yahoo.com and other sources.

Gibson, of Commerce Real Estate Solutions called the lawsuit situation unfortunate.

“We have been pro-active in contacting the Review-Journal with research and trends reflecting the Las Vegas market. We have also participated in interviews with Review-Journal reporters, whom we respect and value as they cover a very complex industry — commercial real estate,” Gibson said in a statement. “Nearly all articles posted on our company blog, Commerce Communiqué, contain a brief about the article with a link to the full story, which takes the reader to the Review-Journal website. We posted these news items because we believed the public and our customers would benefit by reading credible stories by credible news outlets. We wanted to help direct them to the Las Vegas Review-Journal site.

“In the past, we did post several complete articles, giving full credit to the publication and author. It was always our goal to educate investors and support the Review-Journal as a responsible, balanced news outlet. As of June 10, we have removed all Las Vegas Review-Journal news briefs and links from our company blog. We find this unfortunate, because we value the relationship we have with the newsroom staff. We want our clients to read the latest stories written about market conditions in Las Vegas. We want to help fuel the economic comeback,” Gibson said.

• Free Speech Systems LLC and radio talk show host Alex Jones in Austin, Texas, who have websites called www.prisonplanet.com and www.infowars.com. Court records show four paragraphs of a blog by R-J Publisher Sherman Frederick were posted on these sites, with a link to the entire column; while message board users of the sites posted additional entire R-J stories with links. The column and stories were credited to the R-J, records show.

“This claim is totally without merit and appears to be purely predatory and I’m weighing all options with counsel including a possible counterclaim, not just to protect myself from being squeezed but also the other sites that have been sued,” said Jones, who said his national talk show is heard on 60 stations around the country.

• Anthony Fiato, a former mob enforcer turned informant who over the years has been the subject of a book by R-J columnist John L. Smith and a source for Smith’s news columns.

Fiato said he was surprised to learn of the lawsuit, since he had been unaware of any concern about him posting R-J stories on his website.

“I’m not concerned about it. It sounds like someone made a mistake,’’ he said, noting his assistance with Smith’s book and in providing information to the Review-Journal.

• Former KTNV-TV sports and news anchor Ron Futrell was sued after R-J stories allegedly were posted on his website www.localslovevegas.com. His attorney has filed a motion for dismissal of the lawsuit.

Ron Futrell

Ron Futrell

“I did nothing wrong — I followed all the journalistic protocol with what I used,” Futrell said. “Think about this. Over the years the R-J used stories of mine that I ‘broke’ while at KTNV-TV.

“It seems silly that journalists would sue other journalists when full attribution and credit is given when a portion of a story is used. I gave the paper and the writer credit for a job well done and provided links to the full story,” Futrell said.

• Honor Inc., a Fremont, Neb., nonprofit company advocating for patient safety and justice. The website says Honor’s One & Only Campaign, promoting “One Syringe Only One Time,” is a public health campaign led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Safe Injection Practices Coalition. The nonprofit’s website, www.oneandonlycampaign.org, allegedly posted an April 30 R-J story about a hepatitis C lawsuit. The R-J was credited as the source of the story, court records show. The site has links to numerous medical stories from around the country, including additional stories by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun.

• Mary J. Santilli in Boston, who operates a blog about the American Idol TV show called mjsbigblog.com. Records show the blog site in April posted an R-J column, crediting the R-J, about American Idol contestants visiting Las Vegas. Santilli said she was surprised that she was being sued since no one from the R-J had contacted her to advise her that her posting of the R-J column was infringing on a copyright. Santilli, who lists 5,430 followers on her Twitter account, said that besides posting the story on her blog, she had re-Tweeted R-J Tweets about the American Idol contestants visiting Las Vegas.

“I probably brought them a million ‘hits,’” she said, adding she’s a middle-age woman who blogs from her home and doesn’t have any money for Righthaven to take as damages.

“This is a shock to me they would do something like that,” she said of the suit, adding she regularly posts stories about American Idol from numerous news sources and always credits the sources.

“I’m not knowingly infringing on anybody,” Santilli said.

• Scottsdale, Ariz., company The Above Network LLC and an official there, William Irvine. They allegedly run the website www.abovetopsecret.com. An R-J story about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was posted on that site, apparently by a user of the site. A court exhibit filed by Righthaven indicated the R-J was not credited for the story in this case. But an abovetopsecret.com official said that at the top of the post there was a link to the R-J story on the R-J website.

Officials at The Above Network said they were surprised to be sued over the posting on the abovetopsecret.com website.

They vowed to mount a vigorous legal defense since, they said, their site includes a notification advising copyright holders how to request removal of stories — yet they said no one from the Review-Journal or Righthaven asked them to remove the story in question.

They also said users who post stories on the abovetopsecret site are required to post links to stories they post, meaning abovetopsecret has been driving Internet traffic in the form of thousands of visitors to the Review-Journal website.

“It’s ludicrous. We’ll never settle with them,” said Mark Allin, a partner at the company, adding the R-J will likely now lose revenue because his site would likely stop allowing users to post R-J stories and links.

• Lisa Mielke and Melissa Prepster, who own the Kyle, Texas-based website www.eaglesfans.com, which allegedly posted an R-J review of an April 24 Eagles concert in Las Vegas. Mielke and Prepster are school teachers who have been running the nonprofit site about the musical group the Eagles for years — often holding fundraisers to keep the site going. Before reaching a settlement with Righthaven, they posted this notice on their website:

“Eaglesfans.Com — We Need Your Help”

“We had hoped that it wouldn’t come to this. We’ve just heard back from Righthaven, the company who is suing us for posting one review (with a link back to the original source). They are not interested in dismissing the case and we need to offer a settlement. This will likely be much more than we have available. We’re asking you, the community for your help and your donations.

“We’re asking you to send what you can. We know that times are tough. It goes without saying that we appreciate anything. This last week has been one of the most difficult either of us have ever been through. We’re hoping to get this settled before school starts up. We can’t teach and help our students if we are constantly worrying and stressing.”

• Marion Valentine, a military retiree in Mississippi, said he received the Righthaven lawsuit and promptly threw it in the trash. Court records show a June 10 R-J editorial was posted on Valentine’s blog on the blog site marionsword.spaces.live.com, with the R-J receiving no credit for the information. The editorial complained about the nation’s “vast and unwieldy federal bureaucracy,” and “the pipe-dream agenda of left-wing academics and government employee unions.”

“I can see why they were upset. What I posted did not identify the author or the source. I posted it as I received it in an e-mail. I pulled the article. Offer my apologies, and I will be more careful in the future,” Valentine said.

“I post articles I write and articles sent to me by e-mail on my site for information and education only. There are no advertisements on my site, nor do I accept donations, therefore there is no income generated by my site,” Valentine said. “I am a 70-year-old now housebound veteran with 100 percent service-connected disability. I have no attachable property or attachable income, so let them sue away. Frankly, with congestive heart failure, I did not expect to still be living this long, so I will probably be dead before a verdict is reached in the lawsuit anyway.”

• Toronto company VerticalScope USA Inc., which was sued after R-J stories were posted to two of its websites, www.sportbikes.net and www.menstennisforums.com.

“As publishers ourselves, we believe strongly in copyright laws, and do our best to moderate our user-generated content sites from having unauthorized copyright content. We have strict policies against this type of material being posted by our users, and we are very responsive to all take-down requests. However, we have not received any correspondence nor requests in this regard from the Las Vegas Review-Journal,” VerticalScope President Rob Laidlaw said.

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