Thursday, March 10, 2011

Righthaven Hits Toronto Star With Infringement Suit

By Wendy Davis

Last year, when former Las Vegas Review-Journal publisher Sherman Frederick wrote that his company had "grubstaked" copyright enforcement outright Righthaven, he publicly urged other newspapers to join the new litigation initiative. At the time Righthaven had filed 22 copyright infringement lawsuits against bloggers, small publishers and nonprofits who allegedly reposted all or parts of Review-Journal articles.

Since then, Righthaven has filed more than 200 additional cases, but hasn't garnered many takers for its offer to represent other papers in copyright lawsuits. The most notable exception is The Denver Post, which has arranged for Righthaven to file dozens of lawsuits regarding a photo of a pat-down at an airport. Two other potential clients -- WEHCO, which owns a group of papers that includes the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; and the St. Louis Tribune -- have signaled that they might tap Righthaven, but don't appear to have done so yet.

Meanwhile, recent moves by Righthaven have called into question whether it still aims to enlist other news organizations as clients. Several weeks ago, Righthaven sued the big media company Citadel Broadcasting for allegedly running the now infamous pat-down photo. And this week, Righthaven hit the Toronto Star with an infringement lawsuit, also for allegedly publishing the now-infamous Denver Post pat-down photo.

For reasons that aren't yet clear, the Star attributed that photo to the Associated Press, instead of The Denver Post. The court filings seem to show that the Star ran the photo to accompany an AP story about the pat-downs.

Regardless, these lawsuits against media companies, presumably filed without advance warning or requests that the material be removed, don't seem like the best strategy for winning over major publishers as clients.

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