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December 21, 2014

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3 suits over alleged R-J copyright infringements bring total to 72

Three more website operators were sued for copyright infringement Thursday after Las Vegas Review-Journal stories allegedly were posted on their sites without authorization, lifting the total of such lawsuit filings to at least 72 since March.

The suits are being filed by a Las Vegas company called Righthaven LLC, which has partnered with the Review-Journal to prosecute lawsuits alleging infringement of copyrights to Review-Journal stories.

The latest suits were filed against:

--Danny Downey, alleged owner of the Internet domain name www.windowintopalestine.blogspot.com. A May 23 R-J story about Israelis linked to drug trafficking allegedly was posted on that blog site. Court records indicate the Review-Journal was not cited as the source of the story on the blog post.

--VerticalScope USA Inc., Sportbikes.net and Rob Laidlaw. The lawsuit says VerticalScope is associated with the websites www.sportbikes.net and www.menstennisforums.com; and that Laidlaw is the president of VerticalScope. VerticalScope says on its website it's based in Toronto.

Court records indicate a user of the sportbikes website posted there a May 21 R-J editorial headlined "Washington will take care of you." The R-J was credited as the source of the information.

The court records also indicate a May 20 R-J story about retired tennis star Steffi Graf was posted on the tennis website, with the R-J credited as the source.

--Grant N. Grand and an entity called Florida Oil Spill Law, which are associated with the website www.floridaoilspilllaw.com. A May 10 R-J story about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill allegedly was posted on that website. Court records show the posting included the byline "BY OILFLORIDA," but also included a link to the R-J story on the R-J website.

Laidlaw, at VerticalScope, said an inquiry Friday from the Las Vegas Sun was the first he had heard he was being sued or that there was a concern about Review-Journal stories on VerticalScope websites.

"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," Laidlaw said.

Requests for comment were placed with the other two defendants.

Rather than requesting websites remove R-J stories before filing lawsuits, Righthaven typically sues the websites and seeks $75,000 in damages for copyright infringement.

Court records show that of the 72 suits, eight have been settled or otherwise closed under generally undisclosed terms. In one publicly disclosed settlement, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws agreed to pay $2,185 to settle allegations an R-J story was posted on its site.

NORML attorneys said they arrived at that amount by examining the number of people who could possibly have viewed the article on a codefendant's servers (247), and multiplying that number by $2.95, which is what the R-J charges to purchase the story from its website archive. That dollar amount was then tripled to remove any doubt about the reasonableness of the settlement offer, the attorneys said.

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