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.