Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Legal ambiguities about the "standing" of Righthaven and other copyright trolls may be settled by July; newspapers raise questions about reader diversion

On May 2, 2011, The New York Times published a story by Dan Frosch on Righthaven, “Enforcing Copyrights Online, for a Profit”, link (url) here. The really big newspapers have been slow to report on this matter, possibly because they fear committing themselves too early on how far they will have to go to address their own hard times.

The article leaves the impression that the law is most unsettled on the question of the standing of a proxy company like Righthaven to sue.  This hadn’t happened before on this scale, but it could happen in other areas (there is already some patent trolling going on, as reported on my trademark blog). Fundamental questions about property rights, even as a libertarian place like Cato would see the concept, arise.

There is also a question about “reader diversion”. It’s true, bloggers can divert traffic as well as major corporate web publishers, which is one reason why “amateurism” on the web is controversial as to future business models based on journalism. For example, someone like me can gain disproportionate attention to his approach to solving an issue like how to end “don’t ask don’t tell”, whereas corporate, government and even NGO’s, however well-meaning, are locked up by bureaucracy.  The question is complicated further by the way social media work, when they wander into publishing as well as personal networking functions.

On May 24, Law Med Consultants wrote a piece about the suit filed against it, while it waits for a process server to show up with papers. (Actually, people can be served a number of ways, including registered mail.  Even apartment rental offices find themselves taking papers for tenants.)  The link is here

 It warns the public that it has the resources to fight frivolous complaints, and scolds the practice of legal terrorism, shaking down people who haven’t succeeding in competing for a “legitimate place” in the media food chain, to keep them silent. (That’s how authoritarian power structures work, which makes the use of the term “property rights” so double edged, when it is a proxy for social or political power.)

Chris Crum, on Web Prone News, has a story April 22, reporting that Righthaven is trying to seize hardware and software used in infringement, as well as domain names, link here.  However, EFF and other attorneys have said that such demands are not supported by copyright law.  Such a demand would raise the question as to whether the aim is to silence a “mom and pop” speaker and make them agree not to self-publish on the web again as part of a settlement “offer”.  Presumably, anyone with means would just replace his computer, but what about all his other data and other, unrelated work that was on the original computer?  

Righthaven Victims is reporting that a number of cases in Las Vegas and Denver are in a holding pattern, with more decisions likely by about July 1.

Some newspapers have been strengthening their "paywall" concept by now refusing to show the link to an article before one subscribes.  (I noticed this with the Minneapolis Star Tribune when I sought to find the link to a valuable story about violence in "clubland", near discos and perhaps gay bars.) Bloggers can otherwise find and display links without needing to subscribe themselves and without encouraging visitors to get to know the papers; but that question, about deep linking, had been settled ten years ago. It is not copyright infringement in and of itself.

Here is an interest YouTube video by USWGO talking about the idea that Righthaven’s minions wants to stop others from becoming “big people”, threatening the “new world order”.  I’m a little surprised by the comments of ties the former Clinton Administration. Enjoy your bilgerburgers.


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