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4 more copyright suits over R-J stories brings total to 22

Updated Friday, May 28, 2010 | 6:31 p.m.

Four more website operators were sued Thursday over allegations they infringed on copyrights by posting, without authorization, stories by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

This brings to 22 the number of copyright lawsuits filed in federal court in Las Vegas since March 13 by Righthaven LLC, a company that has been obtaining copyrights to R-J stories and then suing individuals, companies and organizations that allegedly infringed on the copyrights.

The suits filed Thursday were against:

--Las Vegas mixed martial arts fight company Tuff-N-Uff Productions Inc. and its president, Barry Meyer. An R-J story involving a Tuff-N-Uff fight allegedly was posted on the Tuff-N-Uff website.

--Swadeep Nigam, whom Righthaven says is associated with the website www.vegasdesi.com, which covers the local South Asian community. That website allegedly posted an R-J story on the bankruptcy of Dr. Dipak Desai.

--Andre McCollough, whom Righthaven says is associated with the website www.vegasbubble.com, covering the Las Vegas real estate industry. That site allegedly posted stories by the Review-Journal and its sister publication, the Las Vegas Business Press.

--Ozean Group and Thomas Wahl in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada; whom Righthaven says are associated with the website hotelnewsresource.com. An R-J story on the closure of the Ritz-Carlton in Lake Las Vegas allegedly was posted on that website.

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

He wrote: “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.’’

“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.

Jeff Meyer, vice president at Tuff-N-Uff, said Friday that the company was unaware there was an issue with its website posting the R-J story until Tuff-N-Uff was contacted Friday for comment by the Las Vegas Sun. Meyer said Tuff-N-Uff didn't intend to infringe on copyrights and had taken steps to ensure stories posted on its website properly credited the source.

Messages for comment were left with the other three defendants.

Of the earlier suits, court records show at least four have been settled under undisclosed terms. Those cases were against New Jersey firm MoneyReign Inc.; Henderson real estate agent Matt Farnham; Mark Chavez, who was associated with a University of New Mexico sports website; and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C.

Attorneys for another defendant, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), based in Washington, D.C., are fighting the lawsuit.

They say Righthaven lacks standing to prosecute the alleged infringement because it hasn't show it owned the copyrights for R-J stories when those stories initially appeared on the NORML website; and that the Nevada federal court lacks jurisdiction over NORML.

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