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Progressive political forum fights lawsuit over five sentence news excerpt

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The practice of excerpting news and linking to its source is what drives the blogosphere, engages millions in political discussion and aides the dissemination of information the world over.

However, if the so-called “copyright troll” company Righthaven LLC is successful, a vibrant political forum for American progressives could be shut down, all thanks to a five sentence excerpt from the Las Vegas Review-Journal that caught the paper’s attention.

The forum Democratic Underground (DU) which frequently reposts news excerpts for users to discuss, was sued in August for quoting and linking to the Nevada paper. Backed by Internet freedom advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF), DU filed a counter-suit on Monday, accusing the paper and Righthaven of engaging in copyright fraud.

“Righthaven has brought over 130 lawsuits in Nevada federal court claiming copyright infringement, even though they do not create, produce or distribute any content,” EFF explained. “Instead, they create lawsuits by scouring the Internet for content from Review-Journal stories posted on blogs and online forums, acquiring the copyright to that particular story from Stephens Media LLC (the Review-Journal’s publisher), and then suing the poster for infringement.

“As part of its lawsuit business model, Righthaven claims damages of up to $150,000 under the Copyright Act’s statutory damages provisions and uses that threat to attempt to push defendants into a quick settlement. In the answer and counterclaim filed Monday, Democratic Underground asked the court to affirm that the excerpt of the article does not infringe copyright and is a fair use of the material, with no damages due to Righthaven.”

By wielding copyright law as a blunt instrument, Righthaven has the effect of “chilling free and open discussion on the Internet,” DU founder David Allen claimed in a media advisory.

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“Despite what Righthaven claims, it’s hard to interpret these lawsuits as anything else besides a way to bully Internet users into paying unnecessary settlements,” EFF attorney Kurt Opsahl added. “At the same time, Righthaven is trying to discourage the practice of quoting and linking that is both essential to the interconnected Internet and helps drive significant traffic to newspapers online.”

In a profile by Wired, Righthaven CEO Steve Gibson claimed his company has secured an agreement to expand their copyright lawsuit business to all Stephens Media properties, which includes 70 newspapers in nine states.

“Frankly, I think we’re having tremendous success at a number of levels,” he told the magazine. “We file new complaints every day.”

The company has filed more than 80 such complaints, including one against Nevada Republican and US Senate candidate Sharron Angle.

“I hope we’re not the only ones filing a counterclaim,” DU user Occulus opined.

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Commentary

Why do conservatives hate Oberlin College so much?

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When I was an undergraduate at Oberlin in the mid-Aughts, there was a student in my class year who was obsessed with 19th-century British Royal Naval culture. Every Friday evening, he would host a sing-along in a dorm lounge, for which he would bring xeroxes of historical sea shanty lyrics and pass them around so that we could sing along, waving our glasses of “grog.” This was a semi-established event — he had distributed flyers around campus advertising the weekly British Royal Naval sea-shanty singalong and grog-drinking event, which would extend late into the night. Though he was not a resident of the dorm where it took place, he was welcomed into the lounge by its members, and became a fixture of sorts.Like many well-endowed liberal arts schools in rural areas, Oberlin College functions as a sort of de facto social welfare state, and is designed to encourage and cultivate one’s passions, even if they are not strictly academic. Thus, after writing up a proposal for the student-run activities board, the same student, the British Royal Navy culture guy, was able to plan, organize and execute a ticketed Royal Naval Ball, held in the atrium of the science center. The event featured 20 dishes of authentic British era-appropriate cuisine, cooked by student chefs, several courses of wine and port, and a violinist present to play period-specific music. The whole affair culminated with a traditional, British partner line dance — its sole inauthenticity the fact that we didn’t pay attention to our dance partners’ genders the way the Brits would have.
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World

Raptors victory: Feel-good multiculturalism masks the reality of anti-Black racism in Canada

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During what was probably one of the most exciting and gratifying moments of his professional life, moments after the Raptors’ NBA finals victory on Thursday, a California sheriff’s deputy stopped Raptors president, Masai Ujiri from walking onto the court for the Raptors’ trophy presentation The deputy carded him and asked him for his credentials.

Even though he is the president of the Toronto Raptors’ basketball team and even though it was his own team’s victory ceremony, as a Black executive, he was treated with suspicion, as if he was trespassing.

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2020 Election

Here are 5 reasons why 2020’s down-ballot races could reshape America’s future

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The political press always tends to focus mostly on the marquee race for the White House but that's especially true this cycle, as Donald Trump runs for a second term. He demands attention and his antics enrage his opponents and delight his supporters in equal measure.

But national reporters risk missing the big picture by centering so much of their reporting at the top when many of the most important political battles in 2020 will take place further down the ballot.

Trump is catnip for reporters and their editors, but the dearth of coverage of downballot races didn't begin with his election. As the news media in general faces structural changes—with print circulation declining and much of their work moving into digital spaces that are more difficult to monetize--publishers have cut back on reporters assigned to the state and local government beat. Nevertheless, Trump has arguably worsened the trend by getting so much airtime— one estimate suggested that over the past four years, Trump has taken up, on average, 15 percent of the entire daily news cycle on the three leading cable networks, nearly three times what Obama did.

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