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3 more R-J copyright suits filed; defendant responds

Updated Thursday, June 10, 2010 | 5:43 p.m.

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Three more website operators are being sued for copyright infringement after allegedly posting Las Vegas Review-Journal stories on their Internet sites without permission.

An earlier defendant, in the meantime, has struck back, calling the lawsuits a waste of judicial resources.

Suits filed last week and this week named as defendants:

--Domains By Proxy Inc., which allegedly is the registrant and contact for the website www.crimenews2000.com. That website says it's an advocate for crime victims and justice nationwide. It allegedly published material from the R-J, the Las Vegas Sun and other local news organizations about the slayings this year in Southern Nevada of Hooters waitress Prisma Contreras and homeowner Julio Romero.

--Brian Lojeck, whom Righthaven says runs the website www.whatbrianthinksaboutlasvegas.com. That site allegedly posted an R-J column involving politician Sarah Palin.

--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.

In response to the lawsuit, Bill Miller, spokesman for the crimenews2000 website, said: "First I've heard of the suit, and a simple notice would have been all that was required for me to remove their content. All stories excerpted on this site clearly identify the originating newspaper, and link back both to the original article (most of them twice) and the media outlet's main page.

"All material from the Review-Journal has been removed from my website. Why work for a living when you can sue?'' the spokesman said.

And Gibson, of Commerce Real Estate Solutions, on Thursday 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.

A request for comment was left for the third new defendant.

The new cases bring to 37 the number of copyright infringement lawsuits filed since March in Las Vegas federal court by Righthaven LLC, which obtains copyrights to R-J stories and then sues alleged infringers and typically demands $75,000 in damages.

In the previous cases, many of the defendants said that until they were sued, they had no idea there was a concern about them posting R-J stories.

One of the earlier defendants has filed a response in court saying the lawsuit is an abuse of the judicial process and a waste of time, effort and money since the potential damages are less than $86.

John (Jack) D. Wooden, of Columbus, Ind., who runs the madjacksports.com website, was sued by Righthaven on May 13 because R-J stories involving UNLV sports and hunting and fishing were posted on the madjacksports site.

In his June 2 response focusing on a copyright obtained by Righthaven for an R-J UNLV basketball story, Wooden said a third party reader of the website using the name "illuminati" posted text from the story on a madjack message board.

"The text from the newspaper article was removed from the web page promptly upon receipt of plaintiff's complaint, and that text no longer appears on the website. Receipt of plaintiff's complaint in this action was the first time defendant or his company had ever been notified of any complaint or issue regarding the newspaper article," Wooden said in his filing.

The web page at issue was visited just 29 times, so the potential damages total just $85.55, since the R-J sells the article on its website archive for $2.95, Wooden said.

"If plaintiff or anyone else discovers allegedly infringing material on the website, a simple phone call or e-mail is all that will be required to resolve the matter," Wooden wrote.

"This lawsuit was entirely unnecessary and is an abuse of this court's resources and power. But more importantly, this is not the only such case pending before this court. Plaintiff is a newly-formed corporate shell designed solely for plaintiff's counsel to use as a litigation machine to extort outrageous multi-thousand dollar settlements from far-flung 'innocent infringers' like defendant where actual damages, if any, are in the $3 to $100 range and could be cured with a phone call or an email," Wooden's filing said.

"Plaintiff's business model is precisely the type of abusive, needlessly litigious behavior that gives lawyers a bad name, and it should be stopped, here and now," Wooden wrote. "This court should put an end to this rapidly-escalating waste of resources and send a clear signal to plaintiff by awarding defendant his costs and attorney fees."

Righthaven hasn't responded to Wooden's allegations it's a "litigation machine."

In a May 28 blog post, Review-Journal Publisher Sherman Frederick explained that the R-J and its owner, Stephens Media, had decided to act against the theft of copyrighted material.

"When it comes to copyrighted material — news that my company spends money to gather and constitutes the essence of what we are as a business — some people think they can not only look at it, but also steal it. And they do,’’ Frederick wrote.

"We grubstaked and contracted with a company called Righthaven. It’s a local technology company whose only job is to protect copyrighted content. It is our primary hope that Righthaven will stop people from stealing our stuff. It is our secondary hope, if Righthaven shows continued success, that it will find other clients looking for a solution to the theft of copyrighted material," Frederick wrote.

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