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April 23, 2014

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Copyright lawsuits filed against U.S. Marijuana Party, dating website

Advocates for the legalization of marijuana and a Florida dating website operator are among the latest to be sued for copyright infringement after Las Vegas Review-Journal stories allegedly were posted on their websites.

Righthaven LLC, which sues alleged infringers of Review-Journal copyrights, filed suit Wednesday in federal court in Las Vegas against:

• The United States Marijuana Party and Richard J. Rawlings in Peoria, Ill., whom Righthaven says have a website called www.usmjparty.com.

• Kathryn B. Lord in Tallahassee, Fla., who allegedly has a website called www.find-a-sweetheart.com.

The marijuana party and Rawlings, its president, are accused of posting on the party website a July 21 story about a Las Vegas police detective shooting and killing Trevon Cole, who police said had been involved in drug sales.

Court records indicate the Review-Journal story was posted by Rawlings in its entirety on July 24, with the R-J receiving full credit.

On its website, the party explained its purpose: “We feel it is time for the 15 million Americans who smoke marijuana on a regular basis to stop hiding their love for this plant and unite as one large body of voters to demand an end to the unconstitutional prohibition of marijuana and the drug war.”

The marijuana party becomes at least the third group involved in reforming drug laws to be sued by Righthaven.

An earlier case was settled against the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Washington, D.C., and codefendant the Media Awareness Project. NORML settled its portion of the suit for $2,185; MAP’s settlement amount was not disclosed.

Lord, meanwhile, is accused of posting on her dating website a June 16 Review-Journal column called “Radical commitment means closing all escape hatches.”

Court records indicate that on the “Kathryn’s Blog” portion of the website, the Review-Journal column was reposted June 17 in its entirety, with the Review-Journal columnist credited but not the Review-Journal.

The blog included an unrelated story by the Washington Post and other material, the court records show.

Righthaven in each of the new suits demands $150,000 in damages and forfeiture of the defendant’s website domain names.

The $150,000 damage claim has now been asserted in at least the last four Righthaven lawsuits, up from the $75,000 usually demanded in the previous suits. Righthaven hasn’t said why its damage claim has increased.

A request for comment on the lawsuit against her was placed with Lord.

Rawlings said that if he did post the story in question, he would have credited the source newspaper and linked back to it.

He said when news sources demand material be removed or be replaced with a link, he complies, but in this case, he said, no one from the Review-Journal or Righthaven contacted him and the first he heard of the lawsuit was from the Las Vegas Sun.

The two suits bring to at least 119 the number of copyright infringement lawsuits Righthaven has filed since March.

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