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Brian Hill: Hobby blogger sued by MediaNews & Righthaven is 20, chronically ill, autistic

brian hills photo cropped.JPG
Big pic below.
MediaNews Group's get-tough policy toward copyright protection has been led by Righthaven LLC, a Nevada firm whose Denver Post-related lawsuits have targeted the likes of Internet star Matt Drudge. Far less powerful is Brian D. Hill, a twenty-year-old hobby blogger on disability, who says he received no warning about unauthorized use of a Post photo and can't afford the $6,000 Righthaven told him he must pay to squash a suit against him.

According to BigMedia.org's Jason Salzman, Righthaven had filed thirty suits in federal court here in Colorado as of last week. Thus far, the Post hasn't kept readers abreast of this legal deluge, with the paper's editor, Greg Moore, telling Salzman "there's nothing to report. They are suing on our behalf those who infringe on our copyright."

Brian Hills Picture.JPG
Brian D. Hill.
Moore added: "This is not about educating bloggers or anyone else. It is to restrain them from appropriating our content. We have been clear that we will protect our content and if anyone is unclear about why that's important, there is probably nothing else the institution can say."

As for the individuals on the receiving end of these suits, Drudge is easily the biggest name. The first suit in the barrage was aimed at South Carolina blogger Dana Eiser, accused of republishing a Mike Rosen column about the Tea Party on her tiny LowCounty912 website -- and most of the listings on a docket linked by Salzman feature little-known operations such as Matzoball Entertainment Online. This focus on the little guy was a factor in Rocky Mountain Right overseer Anthony Surace taking his site offline for fear another user had put up Post content without his knowledge.

Also represented on the docket is Hill, sued as an individual for publishing a Denver Post pic of a TSA agent on his website, uswgo.com, launched in October 2009. A resident of Mayodan, North Carolina, Hill is twenty years old and, in his words, "mildly autistic." He also suffers from "a brittle case of Type 1 diabetes. That means my blood sugar tends to fluctuate a lot" -- so much so that he can't work and receives disability payments.

At this writing, uswgo.com, which Hill describes as "an alternative news site where people can post political stuff that would usually not be covered by the mainstream media," is not accessible. He says he pulled it down last week after learning he was being sued -- information that came to him not from Righthaven, but from a journalist.

Summons-served-to-Brian-Hill-under-RightHaven-civil-action.jpg
Hill took this photo of his summons.
"A reporter from the Las Vegas Sun, Steve Green, sent me an e-mail and told me about the lawsuit, and he gave me a copy of the lawsuit," Hill notes. "At first, I didn't think it was real, but then I looked at the article and saw my name on there, and I found my name on the court docket site. And I thought, 'Oh my goodness, I'm being sued.'"

At that point, Hill immediately removed the photo, "and then me and my mom contacted Righthaven to try to reason with them. I told them I'm renting a house, so I don't own any property, and I'm on disability, so I really don't have any money for them to take."

According to Hill, a Righthaven representative responded by telling me "that if I paid them $6,000 in an out-of-court settlement, it wouldn't go to trial."

Unfortunately for Hill, he has neither the $6,000 nor enough money to travel to Colorado for a hearing. He received a summons last week that gives him 21 days to respond -- "so me and my mom sent a letter to the judge to try to get him to dismiss the case." And if he doesn't? "Then the only way we can afford to go to Colorado is to countersue Righthaven and have them pay the filing fee."

Of course, Righthaven, represented in the suit against Hill by attorney Steven Gamin, could drop the case, too. Thus far, Gamin hasn't replied to an interview request from Westword. When and if he does, we'll update this post.

Why does Hill think Righthaven is suing him, as opposed to contacting him in advance and asking him to remove the photo, which he says he would have done? Money is one reason -- but after doing an Internet search and finding references like this one to Righthaven's alleged links to the Obama administration, he wonders if there is "a political reason" behind the cases.

And if the case does go to trial? Hill will be representing himself -- because he can't afford a lawyer, either.

More from our Media archive: "Dean Singleton interview about stepping down as CEO of MediaNews Group."


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61 comments
Phen375
Phen375

This is a sad case. Law must understand the real case, not just an individual thinking....

tanjent
tanjent

Though it's old, not sure how old exactly, I just began watching a video entitled 1st USWGO Documentary directed, according to content, by Brian D. Hill. I had to shut it down at about 10 minutes, into it. I found myself compelled to find out who this kid was, and was he mildly retarded ? Yes fortunately to the internet it has been confirmed. He is. I believe he's being called autistic. Mildly retarded by any other name non the less. I can't lay the blame on the kid as much as the people who encouraged him. Don't encourage those who are so handicapped that wiping their ass is a monumental achievement to speak, let alone produce ramblings of pseudo intellect. You may find him being sued for his maniacal banter and or, use of copyrighted material.

StellaBurnette
StellaBurnette

Brian is my grandson, and I am very proud of him. His site (www.uswgo.com) was so professional looking that Righthaven decided to sue him too. This is not your normal copyright law suit. Learn about Righthaven. They are trying to take away our freedom of speech on the Internet using legal extortion. People with real talent who have enough money will try to get a copyright on their work. We respect copyright and copyright laws. In this case, a newspaper is asking everyone to share their photos and print them. After this photo is everywhere on the Internet, then Righthaven gets a copyright on what should be of interest to all USA citizens and even citizens from other countries (especially people who fly on planes). They see this photo on your website or blog THEN they get a copyright on this photo or news article (not their work). They don't tell you or warn you, they simply sue you in court, file the court papers on you for $150,000, then they try to settle with you for $6,000 and your domain (your website). They are cold and evil people when you talk to them, they don't mind breaking laws dealing with SSI checks that disabled need every penny of that money to survive. Righthaven wanted to garnish Brian's SSI check at $50.00 per month until the $6,000 was paid to avoid going to court.

Comso
Comso

what kind of b*s* is this - there are real problems in this world we should talk about!!

schockergd
schockergd

This is exactly why I want to move all my websites & hosts offshore , so I don't have to deal with the likes of righthaven in the case that a USER submits content that's copyrighted.

American Justice
American Justice

Let's don't call Righthaven a firm. Gibson's a one-man show with a few lawyers assisting in filing lawsuits. It's that simple.

Guest
Guest

Looks like this case would be a good one for an attorney to take to counter sue Righthaven. I'm surprised this hasn't happened more often. Is there no money for an attorney to make in a counter suit?

Jpfordguy
Jpfordguy

The key thing to any lawsuit is the following:

The plaintiff has to show damages that amount to the sum they're looking to get. Secondly, they have to show that you profited from the activity. This is why they can nail you on sharing music (because that music is sold, and someone copying it and giving it away is loss of revenue), but they can't nail you if you create a backup CD for your collection. There's no money changing hands.

If the photo was copyrighted, they have to prove loss of revenue to get damages.

The other sticky part is that they put the photo out there in the public domain, without adequate protection from duplication. I'd also check into if they put a copyright notice near the photo, indicating that it was copyrighted.

Odds are, they are barking up a very large, unprofitable tree, and will lose more money than they make in legal costs.

IMaTelaU
IMaTelaU

Send a letter first and give the party time to resond before filing suit! This smacks of political bullying by a "we are in charge" collaboration between a company and government! Hey, robert redford... you and your lefty buddies going to make a movie about it? Doubtful, since you and your ilk are responsible for the new slave state regime now in office.

Guest
Guest

To win their case, Righthaven will have to prove that the Post has any content of value. Case dismissed.

Lil
Lil

I HATE THE GLOBALISTS THAT ARE WORKING TO TAKE AMERICA DOWN PIECE BY PEICE BY STEALTH. ENCROCHMENTS ON ALL OUR FREEDOMS! TYRANTS ABOUND AND WANT GLOBAL GOVERNMENT AND SOCIALIST COMMUNIST CONTROL.

Lil
Lil

THE BIG GUYS ARE TRYING TO TEACH AMERICA A LESSON!!! YOU HAVE NO MORE FREEDOM AND THEY ARE USING ANYTHING TO STOP IT!! THEY ARE COMING AFTER THE NET!!! THEY LIE!!! GO TO INFOWARS.COM

Lil
Lil

This is a way they the insiders in the upper shadows will try to stop freedom of speech on the net!! Evil and you know this is all connected to the shadow gov.

dci007
dci007

"Repercussions of his choice to steal"? Bob, I think you need a refresher on FAIR USE and the 1st Amendment. The TSA photo did not go viral because it was cute; it went viral because people were DISCUSSING it and are very concerned about this issue. I'm not returning to this website -- clearly it's overly inhabited with uneducated, antiquated goons.

Guest
Guest

So looking in today's dead tree edition of the Post, on page 5 of the sports section, there's a photo of a Peter Forsberg rookie trading card by Upper Deck. And a photo of a stamp from Sweden honoring Peter Forsberg. No credit. No "used with permission." No nothing, on either of them. And I'll take a wild stab and guess there's a copyright on the trading card. And unlike the Web, there's no taking it down in the dead tree edition.

Guest
Guest

Doing some research about Media News, they declared bankrupsy last year (2010), doing some research about Righthaven, they were formed last year and to date have over 200 lawsuits against bloggers and other websites. I would admit that there would be a lot more money on getting people to settle out of court for $6,000 would be a far better business than all of the work involved with newspapers at 50 cents to $1.00 daily or $2.00 on Sunday.

sporobolus
sporobolus

JT: your research was incomplete -- uswgo.com is currently a placeholder page that Hill put up when he took his blog down; if you check the google cache you'll see there was indeed a "contact us" link on the original blog; here's

(i can't reply directly to your post, disqus can't nest that deep?)

Jpjpjp58
Jpjpjp58

You know, common-sense should kick in at some point. Clearly he shouldn't used the photo in the first place, but after being informed by a third party he took it down. Westward got what it claims it wanted, protection of its client's copyright. At this point, it's nothing more than a shakedown of a kid who clearly does not have the means to defend himself.

Shayneo
Shayneo

What a repulsive comment.

BobT1971USM
BobT1971USM

Here's what I don't get. Why is the job of the victim to track down the person who stole the picture and ask them to take it down, when Mr. Hill made no attempt to contact the Denve Post for permission to put it up? If someone steals my lawn mower, do I have to find it, knock on the front door and nicely ask for it back before I call the cops?

Sean
Sean

You are an idiot.

JD
JD

You should consider a refresher on Fair Use and the 1st Ammendment yourself. Neither are a license to use someone else's copywrited property without proper credit or permission, regardless of people "discussing it and being very concerned about this issue."For someone calling others "uneducated", you are quite uninformed yourself. Take a look in the mirror.

DB
DB

I don't have yesterday's paper in front of me, but my strong hunch is that is a wire service image, to which I'm sure the Post subscribes, and unlike Mr. Hill, the Post pays for the content it uses. If not, I hope the Post gets its pants sued off, just as Mr. Hill deserves.

Guest
Guest

My spelling gets worse with age and so doesn't my typing. I meant "bankruptcy" not bankrupsy!!

Brian D. Hill
Brian D. Hill

If your looking for a way to contact Brian again he is at admin@uswgo.com but if the domain gets seized then another email will be posted to contact Brian (myself).

JT
JT

My mistake, I should've thought to check for a cached page. It looks like not only was the email clearly stated on the page, but there was even a contact form for the low-tech. Hard to believe this company would have any chance in court with no effort to correct things via the usual channels.

AInsider
AInsider

I want you all to look at the information I have presented here.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/5011...

This is very important as it reveals about Righthaven's Code of Conduct violations and should be sent to the Nevada Bar Counsel.

sporobolus
sporobolus

Jpjpjp58: it wasn't WestWord that sued, it was a company that sues on behalf of The Denver Post; i agree it's a shakedown; this has been going on for a while and is one reason i don't read the Post

BobT1971USM
BobT1971USM

Fair enough, JP. I hate big, wealthy corporations and lawyers in general, and I agree this is a unusual and sad case, but I think we all agree that we can't have a system where right and wrong depends on your ability to be held accountable. That seems like common sense, too. In the end, Singleton probably won't collect much, if anything, against this 20-year-old man, but until that time Mr. Hill should have to deal with the repercussions of his choice to steal. Going to court sucks, but that's the price you pay when you break the law. Isn't it?

Fotopro63
Fotopro63

Fair Use is the first thing every infringer turns to try to justify an infringement. Fortunately, it rarely works because of the narrow guidelines in its use.It is good policy to assume that EVERYTHING ON THE INTERNET IS COPYRIGHTED. It may save you a large chunk of money.

Concerned for (the) US
Concerned for (the) US

you were 'deprived' of your property bob. No one was deprived of rightful ownership. The internet has changed the game. There is no lack of copies of this picture. This actually can promote the owner and its property by providing free advertising. Free advertising like viral marketing can overexpose image property. A photo that was meant to be shared by its 'owner' then turned into a high value item? sounds like big business and gov are hand in glove. How does someone deserve an ounce of negative attention for this, while trying to better inform himself and the public. Because he can't afford to defend himself? to scare away any potential upheavals through future op/ed on the internet? Go find a real criminal whom has deprived someone of actual property, caused irreparable harm, and hurt someones hard efforts at earning a living.

BobT1971USM
BobT1971USM

DC, you are utterly and completely clueless about fair use. Take five minutes and go to the Copyright Office website and read something before you comment on what you "think" the facts are.

If Mr. Hill had reproduced the photo because he was doing a story on how the Post or the media reported on the TSA issue, then that would be fair use. If he were critiquing the photo, that would be fair use. If he used a small portion of an article and named the source and included a link to the original story, that would be fair use. If he received permission from the Post, yes, that's the best kind of fair use there is.

If he simply stole a picture off the internet -- and stealing has been defined legally and ethically for centuries as taking things that don't belong to you, Mr. Hill, so, yes, you stole -- because he was too cheap to pay for it and too lazy to make a 5 minute phone call to ask permission, that is NOT fair use. That's just stealing. Mr. Hill asks "what law did I break?" It's called the copyright LAW for a reason, sir.

I refer you to the last two paragraphs of the government's definition of fair use:

"The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office cannot give this permission.

"When it is impracticable to obtain permission, use of copyrighted material should be avoided unless the doctrine of fair use would clearly apply to the situation."

I rest my case, JD. (And I'm confidant JD doesn't stand for juris doctorate.)

By the way, Mr. Hill, you should really watch what you say and what you "like" on here. Your attorney would tell you some of your comments and endorsements could wind up being using against you in court to demonstrate intent. Also, you demonstrate a level of arrogance and lack of remorse on here that those of who were originally sympathetic, and a judge, might find offensive. As they say, a person who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client.

Good luck, but you really brought this on yourself.

Guest
Guest

Highly HIGHLY doubtful a player's trading card from the mid-1990s would be on a wire service. And I've been in the newspaper business for 20 years.

Brian D. Hill
Brian D. Hill

Check my comments on here for contact information. I can also put it on the website since I am getting a lot of media attention over this I will put my contact info on the shut down message of my website.

Guest
Guest

This photo does not have a copyright marker on it (Like where I live, every photo in our newspaper has the date and the name of the newspaper on it). When you look at the court papers that Righthaven has filed on this, it says that they saw this photo on this website on Dec. 1st, then Righthaven got a copyright on this photo on Dec. 8th. When you look further, you will see that this photo is on the Internet right now, and the newspaper is asking everyone to share it with their friends and to print it. What kind of a copyright case is this?? Sounds more like legal extortion to me!! Beware, they are going after everyone on the net. I know it really looks like a copyright infringement at first glance. I think as Righthaven becomes better known to us, they are really going to hurt those who have genuine copyright issues.

WolfHunter0521
WolfHunter0521

Excuse me Bob! Brian Hill is my husband's son from a previous marriage. BRIAN DID NOT BREAK ANY LAW!

Brian D. Hill
Brian D. Hill

What law did I break? I didn't even steal. The photo was not even copyrighted at thje time I posted it on the website. If there was a watermark I never would have copied the photo and put in my website. Righthaven is at fault for not putting a copyright watermark.

Also copying is not stealing. Copying is the same as taking a picture. If copying is considered stealing then so should photography because I know a lot of webshots photographers that should goto jail for stealing since I'm accused of that.

A lot of photographers do not get permission from every single private owner whether they can take the picture or not therefore no authorization thus makes all photographers thieves.

So that means every American is breaking the law under your definition.

guest
guest

Mr. Hill did not steal. The newspaper that this photo came from is asking everyone to share it. The photo has to do with our airports, many have it on their websites. According to this law suit, Righthaven saw it on this website on Dec. 1st and got a copyrite on it on Dec. 8th. How is that stealing??

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Interesting take, BobT1971USM. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and congrats.

sporobolus
sporobolus

BobT1971USM: it's not a clear case of "breaking the law", it's a civil lawsuit, which anyone can file with or without just cause

it is very difficult for someone without ample finances to defend against such a suit; we don't really know all the facts, but it's pretty clear that Righthaven is a profiteer that cares more about making money than about stopping the use of copyright materials

Yepperday
Yepperday

The SOP that has been used on the net since its early days is contact the "offender" and ask them to remove the item. If they refuse, then you go to their ISP and ask them to intervene. If that doesn't work, then you can sue if you think you have a case. Noen of this was done in this case. Most people on the Net have no idea of copyright and fair use laws and most will gladly pull something down if a copyright issue is presented to them. Righthaven is out for cash, period. Trying to shake down a kid after no contact at all is par for their greedy, uncaring course.

Me
Me

Zip it, Righthaven shill.

Facts in the case: Righthaven bought the copyright to a photo that WAS ASKED to be shared, after Mr. Hill had used the photo in his blog, and think that they can get some easy money from a man who can't afford to defend himself.

You are evil people, and I hope that your firm picks on someone with the determination and wherewithal to countersue you into oblivion.

BobT1971USM
BobT1971USM

Sorry, JD. I meant DC. I got swept up in my JD joke and forgot to check my facts before I hit "post," as DC did with his misguided interpretation of fair use. Speaking of which, since the judge is likely to have a different reading that DC's, I wonder how he's going to view Mr. Hill's "like" of his being called an "uneducated, antiquated goon."

DB
DB

Why is that unlikely, Guest? I cannot find the Forsberg picture on the Denver Post website, so I might be wrong. However, I typed "rookie card" in Google, searched "News" and instantly found 1,521 images, so what are you basing your perception of unlikeliness on? I worked on the copy desk of several newspapers for almost 30 years, and my educated opinion is that you are full of beans. The rookie card of a famous player is the kind of image you would expect to find on the wire the day that player retires. Before Brian asks, "Why can they use someone else's photo and I can't?" the answer is because they paid to use it or received permission from the card company, which I'm sure was thrilled to publicize its brand.

Brian D. Hill
Brian D. Hill

Exactly. Anytime I want my works to be protected and give me free advertisement I put my sites logo on the picture and therefore people will know it's my picture. If somebody removes the watermark to try to skirt the credits then that should be illegal and plagiarism. Also I did not know at all the photo came from the Denver Post because it was already reposted at many other blogs and sites.

Fotopro63
Fotopro63

Brian, every artistic creation is copyrighted from the moment of creation. In the case of a photograph, that happens when the shutter is snapped. I think you are confusing copyright with "registered" copyright. The latter gives the copyright holder much stronger remedies in case of infringement.Secondly, copying CAN be stealing, especially if the creator of the image is a professional and relies upon licensing fees to make a living. Have you ever priced out the cost of professional photographic equipment? It's not cheap. In addition, perhaps you'd like to estimate the cost of learning to become good enough to earn a living as a photographer.Lastly, permission is not needed to take pictures of people or things in public. There is no expectation of privacy in public. If the photographer wants to use the image for a commercial purpose, most often advertising to sell a product, then a model release is needed. If the photographer wants to sell the image as an art piece, a poster, for instance, then no release is needed.

Shayneo
Shayneo

It might be a bit late for this. But Brian, you should try and avoid commenting on these matters when a lawsuit is coming at you in the press. Lawyers are cunning and can sometimes take your words and use them as some sort of evidence. Any public comment should always be checked with a lawyer, at least until its settled. Good luck, even if the law doesnt end up on your side, you at least have a *moral* case.

T S
T S

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U...

The United States copyright law protects "original works of authorship,"[8] including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. **This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.**

Copyright law includes the following types of works

* Literary * Musical * Dramatic * Pantomimes and choreographic works * Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works * Audiovisual works * Sound recordings * Derivative works * Compilations * Architectural works

In 1989, the U.S. enacted the Berne Convention Implementation Act, amending the 1976 Copyright Act to conform to most of the provisions of the Berne Convention. As a result, the use of copyright notices has become optional to claim copyright, because the Berne Convention makes copyright automatic.[24] However, the lack of notice of copyright using these marks may have consequences in terms of reduced damages in an infringement lawsuit — using notices of this form may reduce the likelihood of a defense of "innocent infringement" being successful.

T S
T S

you don't need a copyright sign or watermark to copyright something in this country, Brian. that is an often made false assumption. And your take on photographing subjects is also way off.

you really should try and take a course on media and copyright law sometime, it may help you to understand things better.

AInsider
AInsider

I want you all to look at the information I have presented here.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/5011...

This is very important as it reveals about Righthaven's Code of Conduct violations and should be sent to the Nevada Bar Counsel.

Brian D. Hill
Brian D. Hill

yeah you know the photo was posted before Righthaven got the copyright so it isn't just Fair Use protection but should also be under the grandfather clause where if a new law is madefor example a national park got built where there are homes then legally they are allowed to stay there since they owned the property before the national park got built.

Therefore I should be protected under Fair Use and the grandfather clause.

Brian D. Hill
Brian D. Hill

@JT if you wanna contact Brian Hill of USWGO then send a email to admin@uswgo.com

JT
JT

If you check the site in question, you'll find he has no option to contact him. Checking the whois registrant info yields this:

Administrative Contact: By Arvixe Private Registration (domains@arvixe.com) +1.8882784939 Fax: PO BOX 14738 San Luis Obispo, CA 93406 US

That isn't his address, and it is also not a dynamic forwarder which will get the email to him. The whois provides no way to contact him short of emailing an address which gets email for every anonymous coward on Arvixe.

He has opted not to provide any method of contacting him, so it makes perfect sense to me that the handling of the situation was immediately escalated to 'what do you we do when the person ignores our emails?' step.

Given how hard he worked to ensure people couldn't contact him, I'd say this situation was resolved in exactly the way I would expect it to be resolved.

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