Blackout! Stop Government Censorship!

Many websites are blacked out today to protest proposed U.S. legislation that threatens internet freedom: the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). From personal blogs to giants like WordPress and Wikipedia, sites all over the web — including this one — are asking you to help stop this dangerous legislation from being passed. Please watch the video below to learn how this legislation will affect internet freedom, then scroll down to take action.

Huzzah!

The Armed Citizen is back online!

(h/t Robb at Sharp as a Marble)

The Armed Citizen will FIGHT!!

Good news! Clayton Cramer and David Burnett, the scholars behind The Armed Citizen, have announced that they will fight the predatory lawsuit against them.

We are going to fight this outrageous lawsuit–and we’re going to need some money to fight.  The latest lawsuits filed against other parties involve copyright infringements based on “four paragraphs,” properly attributed and linked back to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.  Will you be allowed to quote two paragraphs?  One paragraph?  One sentence?

Please: not only for the gun rights community, but for the future of scholarly research, for the future of the Internet, and to prevent this outrageous abuse of the legal process: donate with the Donate button in the right sidebar to help us with our legal defense fund.

Lawyers are expensive. Everybody help them out if you can. Remember, the next blog these predators go after may be yours!

(h/t Robb Allen at Sharp as a Marble)

Armed Citizen Lawsuit Update

David Burnette has posted an update on the lawsuit against The Armed Citizen blog. He gets to the heart of the matter pretty quickly.

When people start using the law in unorthodox ways to bully or extort from small nonprofit blogs, you don’t want to cave to them. Then you find out just how much it costs to stand on principle. Righthaven knows the breaking point for most people, hence the multiple low-key settlements.

He also notes the bad strategy involved.

For a company that goes around slapping bloggers with lawsuits, Righthaven’s decision to put The Armed Citizen in its sights may be imprudent. The owners hardly get rich off this site, and when the main contributor is a young kid fresh out of college, the financial returns aren’t going to be very handsome.

In short, these are the wrong pockets to pick.

[...]

The publicity of this may be another factor Righthaven neglected. Already, the Review-Journal’s rival paper, the Las Vegas Sun, is running stories on these lawsuits. Wired.com ran a story which was then linked to on the Drudge Report. Reason magazine and World Net Daily are among other popular sources that have run with this story, along with countless bloggers.

He also notes some important points in their favor.

There is also a powerful argument in favor of fair use. According to copyright.gov, “The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission.”

Given the noncommercial and scholarly nature of the website, and the fact that we were collecting thousands of stories for the purposes of a silent-but-deafening commentary on armed self-defense – which recent events prove to be a pivotal issue of debate from both a Constitutional and a societal point of view – may contribute to a strong case for fair use.

Neither Clayton nor David have been served yet, and the case can’t proceed until we have received formal notice.

I’d be careful about that last point. There’s a thing called constructive notice, which means that if you have actually been notified the lack of formal notice doesn’t keep the case from going forward. I don’t know if it applies here, and I assume that they do have an attorney involved, but since they have publicly posted that they’re aware of the suit they shouldn’t assume formal notice is required.

And an interesting fact.

Righthaven actually secured the copyright in July…or, nearly two months after the article appeared on the website. In other words, Righthaven attorneys preparing their litigious blitzkrieg found the article (likely because we linked back to their website), and in order to pursue statutory damages (as opposed to actual damages, which would be little to none), secured a copyright to the article after the fact.

Seems odd if all they wanted was to protect their work, doesn’t it?

(h/t Linoge at Walls of the City)

Vegas paper suing another source

He’s also a former mob enforcer. This doesn’t seem to be the brightest idea they’ve had.

Former mob enforcer turned government witness Anthony Fiato over the years has been the subject of a book by Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith and a source for Smith’s news columns.

Now Fiato is being sued for copyright infringement after Review-Journal reports about the mob in Las Vegas allegedly were posted online on Fiato’s personal blog site.

And he’s apparently been a source for a lot of their stories, too. They’re going to run out of sources if they keep this up.

Also, Sebastian has written a script to use with WordPress blogs to search for links to Stevens Media sources so they can be removed. I will most likely do this later, when I have time and access to a linux box. I’m not sure how to do it from a Winblows command-line (or if the script works in Winblows – I think Sebastian runs linux for most things just like I do).

[Source: Las Vegas Sun article by Steve Green, July 27, 2010]

(h/t Sebastian at Snowflakes in Hell)

Copyright and Fair-Use

Because of the recent predatory lawsuits by a certain Las Vegas paper, and specifically what they have done to close down The Armed Citizen blog and drive Clayton Cramer out of blogging, I have added a Fair-Use disclaimer in the sidebar. This disclaimer specifically asks for anyone who thinks I have exceeded the boundaries of Fair-Use to contact me by adding a comment to the post in question.

I get notified of comments by e-mail, so I can usually respond to any comments the same day. Occasionally, a comment may get trapped in the spam filter. If that happens you will know. Please be patient – I don’t necessarily check that every day, but I should see it within the week.

There is no real “bright line” on what is and is not Fair-Use, and I will work with anyone who believes I have gone beyond Fair-Use to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. In some cases, I may ask to verify a requester’s identity, but I will most likely temporarily take down the disputed material anyway while I do so.

I will not give in to extortion, threats, or lawsuits filed with no attempt to contact me first. I will fight tooth and nail against such tactics. Because the line between Fair-Use and infringement in this media is not always clear, and is sometimes dependent on the whims of the original material’s creator, simple decency calls for a polite take-down request before engaging in lawfare. Please be a decent human being, and let me know if I have inadvertently wronged you before you try to destroy my life.

(Thanks to Robb Allen for the term lawfare.)

More on the blogging lawsuits

Via Jenn at A Conservative Shemale, we see a story from Wired Magazine talking about how the CEO of the company suing The Armed Citizen has plans to hunt down every excerpt on the net from every article they might have a claim to and sue the person who posted it.

Borrowing a page from patent trolls, the CEO of fledgling Las Vegas-based Righthaven has begun buying out the copyrights to newspaper content for the sole purpose of suing blogs and websites that re-post those articles without permission. And he says he’s making money.

[...]

Gibson’s vision is to monetize news content on the backend, by scouring the internet for infringing copies of his client’s articles, then suing and relying on the harsh penalties in the Copyright Act — up to $150,000 for a single infringement — to compel quick settlements. Since Righthaven’s formation in March, the company has filed at least 80 federal lawsuits against website operators and individual bloggers who’ve re-posted articles from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, his first client.

This is something I didn’t realize earlier – Righthaven didn’t necessarily have the copyrights when the excerpts were originally posted, they’re buying them for the sole purpose of suing people. This has nothing to do with copyright, and everything to do with harassing people who can’t afford to defend themselves to force them to pay a settlement.

This is bullying and extortion, using copyright laws and the courts as weapons.

This next part is chilling:

Now he’s talking expansion. The Review-Journal’s publisher, Stephens Media in Las Vegas, runs over 70 other newspapers in nine states, and Gibson says he already has an agreement to expand his practice to cover those properties. (Stephens Media declined comment, and referred inquiries to Gibson.) Hundreds of lawsuits, he says, are already in the works by year’s end. “We perceive there to be millions, if not billions, of infringements out there,” he says.

[...]

Gibson says he’s just getting started. Righthaven has other media clients that he won’t name until the lawsuits start rolling out, he says.

“Frankly, I think we’re having tremendous success at a number of levels,” Gibson says. “We file new complaints every day.” [emphasis added]

This is frightening, on more than one level. Firstly, as I’ve said before, the internet, and especially the blogosphere, have become the true cornerstone of the free press. Anyone, regardless of financial means, can publish their personal and political views as long as they have access to a computer and the internet – even if it’s only at a library or internet cafe. These lawsuits, if successful, will crush the individual free press under the weight of fear and intimidation by the major media outlets. Secondly, if these lawsuits succeed in making money – even if they fail in the courtroom, many people will settle because they can’t pay to defend themselves – then other attorneys and media companies will be encouraged to do the same thing.

I can’t emphasize enough how dangerous these lawsuits are to free speech. They need to watched carefully, and we need to do everything we can to help people like Clayton Cramer who are the victims of these predatory actions.

Breaking News: Vegas Newspaper sues The Armed Citizen blog

Update: Clayton Cramer has decided to hang up his blogging hat due to this suit. It looks like both his personal blog and The Armed Citizen will be shut down. It’s a shame, and the cause behind it is a moral outrage. This looks more and more like the paper’s intent is to bully people into outrageously high settlements to avoid trial, while shutting down or taking control of the competition. Hopefully, someone will be able to get damages from the paper for these frivolous suits.  (h/t to Sebastian again)

If it stays up, don’t forget the tip jar at The Armed Citizen. Even if they shut down completely, they’ll still need to defend themselves against this abomination of justice.

—–

Clayton Cramer and David Burnett of The Armed Citizen, are being sued by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Today, The Armed Citizen received informal notice in the form of a media inquiry about a lawsuit against this website and its owners, David Burnett and Clayton Cramer. The lawsuit, reportedly filed in US District Court on July 20th, alleges that The Armed Citizen and its owners “willfully copied” original source content from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

[...]

The “offending” entries consist of six stories, some of which were short enough to qualify under the Fair Use Rule, out of nearly 4,700 entries.  The six stories are still publicly available on the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s website, to which we linked.

The Armed Citizen has been excerpting articles from newspaper, TV station, and radio station websites for a number of years. If any copyright holders decided that The Armed Citizen had exceeded fair use, they only needed to send us an email. Instead, in a bid to target and intimidate small websites, they have chosen to pursue legal action.

The Complaint can be found here.

What I find especially disturbing is that the paper is trying to gain control of The Armed Citizen domain, in addition to asking for money.

3. Direct GoDaddy and any successor domain name registrar for the Domain to lock the Domain and transfer control of the Domain to Righthaven;

As of now, The Armed Citizen is effectively shut down until further notice, as they review every one of their nearly 5,000 posts to verify that they are in compliance with Fair Use standards.

We have removed all postings except this one until such time as we can carefully review each one for compliance with Fair Use–and it is entirely possible that they will never come back.  Make you sure thank the Las Vegas Review-Journal for destroying a valuable gun rights resource

Check out the linked stories at the bottom of The Armed Citizen’s post – it seems this paper is suing several other blogs for the same thing without ever having contacted them with a takedown notice, may be violating campaign finance laws, and have even sued their own source on one story.

This suit is very chilling for bloggers. To the best of my knowledge, The Armed Citizen has only ever posted excerpts of stories except when the story was so short an excerpt would be impractical, and in all cases provided a link and full credit to the original source. This is the usual and accepted practice across the web and the blogosphere when posting about events learned from news stories, and is generally understood to fall under Fair Use exemptions to copyright law. These suits seriously endanger the ability of independent bloggers and webmasters to spread word of events relevant to their readers’ interests.

The blogosphere is the ultimate free press, and the true, unfiltered voice of the people. This must be stopped now, and stopped hard, or it will forever cripple the free media in favor of the old-fashioned monolithic model.

Lawyers are not cheap (I know, I work for one), and they generally charge even more for cases in federal court. The Armed Citizen has a donation button. I encourage my few readers to go and make use of it as soon as possible, and I plan to do so myself come payday.

(h/t Sebastian at Snowflakes in Hell)

Update: More at Weer’d WorldSharp as a Marble, View From the Porch, and SayUncle. I’m sure there will be more later. Let’s spread this news far and wide.

Update: Also at Walls of the City, by Linoge, which has unexcuseably been absent from my blogroll – an oversight that I’ve just fixed.

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