Think before You Quote – Even in Comments

If you create content – or even post comments in blogs – and include quotes from someone else – be aware.  Although this particular company may well be on its last legs, there may be others out there.

It’s an ugly 18-month saga that, fortunately, seems to be coming to a close.

The players:

  •  Righthaven LLC, a Las Vegas-based firm founded in March of 2010, solely for the purpose of suing blogs and websites that re-post any newspaper content without permission from their media clients.
  •  Stephens Media, which owns 70 papers in nine states, including the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
  •  MediaNews Group, the second-largest US newspaper chain, publisher of the Denver Post and 50 other papers.
  •  Hapless bloggers and website owners, as well as those who comment on them.

Act I:

Righthaven LLC is formed in March of 2010, with help from a $500,000 investment from Stephens Media, their first client.  The idea is simple; if newspapers can’t make enough money up front through advertisers and subscribers, monetize the content on the backend through litigation, going after those who unlawfully use their copyrighted material.

Newspaper chains will sell their copyrights to Righthaven for the express purpose of suing over the content, but according to the contract, newspapers retain all rights to control, license and print the material, while Righthaven can only use it to sue.  The agreement also states that any proceeds from settlements or legal judgments are split 50-50 between Righthaven and the newspaper company.  What could go wrong?

Act II:

Righthaven immediately goes about the business of trolling the web for copyright infringements, serving up lawsuits to as many as 300 offenders over the next year, mostly in Nevada and Colorado.  They go after bloggers and websites, even if visitors posted the material in comments or discussion boards.  The size of the infraction also is irrelevant, with no distinction made between small portions or entire articles.

Defendants are sued for tens-of-thousands of dollars, some as much as $150,000, the largest damages allowed.  At least 100 of the accused settle out-of-court for undisclosed sums, fearing expensive legal battles.

Act III:

Righthaven’s profit model and business begin to unravel by April of this year.  Defendants start to fight back, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation begins investigating, exposing large legal flaws in the company’s contractual agreements and lawsuits.

By June, two federal judges in Nevada have ruled Righthaven has no standing to bring a lawsuit, because the newspapers still retain copyright ownership.  The rulings, based on copyright law, state that, “a copyright owner cannot assign a bare right to sue.”  Most of Righthaven’s cases are dismissed, and in July the company is sanctioned by the court and fined $5,000.

Epilogue:

This week the new chief executive of MediaNews Group, John Paton, said he was severing ties with Righthaven saying, “It was a dumb idea.”  Going further he said, “The issues about copyright are real, but the idea that you would hire someone on an-essentially-success fee to run around and sue people at will, who may or may not have infringed as a way of protecting yourself…does not reflect how news is created and disseminated in the modern world.”

Aside from the questionable ethical nature of Righthaven’s business, it also was based on a flawed understanding of copyright law.  Righthaven based their model on so-called patent-troll companies, who buy up patents only so they can sue others and turn a profit.  The key, however, is that they purchase the patent and own it.  Righthaven owned nothing, since the newspapers still reserved all rights of usage.

Righthaven has not filed a lawsuit in over two months, and has not won a single case.  Discredited and with only one client, it looks to be on its way out.  Bloggers who settled with the company are considering options for getting their money back, now that they know the suits were baseless.

The takeaway – which should not be interpreted as legal advice:

  •  Protect yourself.  If you have a blog or website, there is a simple, relatively cheap way to inoculate yourself from infringement committed by those, who comment or post on your site.  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects you from civil copyright liability for user content, and you can easily register a DMCA agent.  Visit http://www.copyright.gov, download the appropriate form and send it with a $105 check to Copyright RRP, Box 71537, Washington, DC 20024.
  •  Fair use practices allow you to reproduce and use a copyrighted work for nonprofit or educational purposes.  It’s usually acceptable to use a copyrighted work in teaching, research, or for criticism and commentary.  For the most part, non-commercial use that does not affect the potential market for or value of the work is considered legal.
  •  Most media outlets and people who create content don’t object to someone quoting short passages from articles, stories or speeches, especially in the context of discussion or criticism.  However, attributing credit and providing a link to the original source are welcome courtesies that can show good intention and save you some trouble.

 

B2B titles are still struggling…

…at least according to the audit agency BPA Worldwide.  It just released its ‘US Consumer Trac Data’ report for the six-month period ending June 30, 2011.  For example, venerable BILLBOARD saw a 100% decrease in circulation.

Newsstand sales reported only two magazines in the gainers’ column: AMERICAN WOODWORKER at 34% up and MARIN at 22% up.

The largest US sports magazine to launch this month

ATHLON SPORTS, a monthly sports magazine, will launch on October 21 with a reported 7 million circulation as inserts in daily newspapers, making it the largest sports magazine in the US.

It will profile America’s elite athletes, provide preseason insights from sports editors, and tell sports stories from around the country, including features on players, teams and coaches spanning college and pro football, the NBA, MLB, golf, racing, hockey, soccer, tennis, horse racing, Olympic sports and youth sports.

The publisher is Athlon Sports Communication Inc, which publishes several preseason titles (PRO FOOTBALL, FANTASY FOOTBALL, COLLEGE BASKETBALL.)

An even better Better Homes and Gardens

BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS is debuting a “more impactful, contemporary and friendly look” with the October issue.  It includes an easier-to-read format and new graphics.

Also, a new “Know-How” section features practical solutions for home, garden and food, reports Mediapost.

San Louis Obispo gets own magazine

SAN LOUIE is a new quarterly magazine created by San Luis Obispo, CA residents who are, “invested in the community and its cultural well-being.”

According to the editors, the magazine is for, “people who love to read but also appreciate the respite of a provocative illustration or beautifully rendered map.  San Louie explores the cultural, artistic and scientific goings-on relevant to San Luis Obispo while paying homage to its rich past.  We respect our readers and hold dear the belief that small towns cater to big minds.”

Available in print and online, the editors posted a call for Issue 2 reader submissions at http://www.sanlouie.com/tag/submissions.

Editor and founder is Ashley Schwellenbach; Art Directors and founders are Cate Trujillo and Mignon Khargie and the Editorial Assistant for Issue 1 was Tim Miller.  Their email is hello@sanlouie.com.

Tide brings in first issue of regional surfing magazine

GHETTO JUICE debuted at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, CA and is a free Newport Beach-based magazine dedicated to the area’s surfer community.  It is published by surf industry veterans Skip Snead (former editor of Surfing Magazine) and Joe McElroy (former art director for Surfer magazine).

Snead originally launched the magazine in black-and-white in 1992.  It only lasted a few months before Snead returned to corporate surfing magazines.  This reincarnation of the magazine is much different, sporting a hot pink cover.

“We want to be the voice of Orange County surfing,” Snead told the Daily Pilot newspaper.

Ghetto Juice will be distributed at local surf shops throughout Orange County.

New magazine for web-processing, converting and finishing industry

CONVERTING QUARTERLY is a new technical publication and website for the web-processing, converting and finishing industry.  Associate Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Mark Spaulding (The Converting Curmudgeon blog) said the first print issue, scheduled to mail in February 2011, will have a circulation of 15,000.

“Converting Quarterly will be distributed to converting professionals engaged in the web-processing technologies of solution, extrusion and vacuum coating; laminating; film manufacturing; flexographic and gravure printing; slitting; sheeting and other finishing methods.  Each issue will include technical Q&A columns and 8-12 technical-journal articles on web-handling, coating/laminating and finishing processes and products,” Spaulding added.

The website, www.convertingquarterly.com, will also be a channel from the AIMCAL website.  Spaulding said a weekly e-Newsletter, CONVERTING QUARTERLY E-NEWS, will begin distribution soon, emailing to an initial audience of 7,500 readers.

Free subscriptions to both the print and digital editions of Converting Quarterly as well as the weekly e-newsletter are available to qualified readers.  Submit editorial materials to the AIMCAL office, aimcal@aimcal.org or Spaulding at mark@aimcal.org.