Rocky Mountain Right website goes on hiatus due to fear of being sued by Denver Post

rocky mountain right logo.JPG
RMR logo.
Visitors to Rocky Mountain Right's website can usually find conservative news and commentary -- but not right now. The home page is currently emblazoned with the phrase "Access Denied." That's because site overseer Antony Surace has temporarily blocked users to the page due to concerns about possibly being sued by the Denver Post for copyright infringement.

As documented in this space, the Denver Post's owner, MediaNews Group, has a new partner: Righthaven LLC. According to a December Las Vegas Sun article linked in the post above, the firm is a "Las Vegas-based newspaper copyright enforcement company" that's filed 179 lawsuits in Nevada since March. On behalf of MediaNews, the outfit made a similar complaint against South Carolina blogger Dana Eiser for posting "a 'literary work' for which Righthaven owns the copyright" to her website, LowCountry912.

The piece in question? "A Letter to the Tea Partyers" by Mike Rosen, published the previous September.

Mere days later, Righthaven cast for a much bigger fish on MediaNews Group's behalf: Internet powerhouse Matt Drudge, accused of publishing a Post photo without permission.

That was enough for Surace, who published the following explanatory note on Rocky Mountain Right:

Rocky Mountain Right is temporarliy off-line due to the decision by the Denver Post to partner with RightHaven, a Las Vegas-based firm dedicated to suing bloggers for "copyright infringement" even if it falls within fair use guidelines in order to turn a profit.

While this site has not been the target of a lawsuit by RightHaven on behalf of the Denver Post, RightHaven is notorious for suing without warning in cases where fair use is justified in order to intimidate bloggers into paying a settlement. This site is a strictly non-profit venture.

We have 1,422 posts as of December 6, 2010 -- the vast majority posted by the over 1,000 registered users of the site -- and we will be expunging any quotes or links to the Denver Post website from all of these posts, even if they fall within fair use guidelines, in order to avoid a frivolous lawsuit.

Please check back in January 2011 for the site to relaunch free of references to the Denver Post. In the meantime, please read more on RightHaven at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and consider canceling your subscription to the Denver Post in the event that you have one.

"I've been watching Righthaven's business tactics for a while in connection with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and anticipated the Denver Post making this move," Surace elaborates. "And the reason I pulled it is because Rocky Mountain Right isn't all written by me. The vast majority of the content is from users who register and create accounts. And even though I know I wasn't copying and pasting whole Denver Post articles on the site, the odds are that in the three yeras of content on there, one of the users has at some point -- and given Righthaven's behavior, it seemed best to pull it offline until I can automate the process and pull anything they might have a problem with off of there."

anthony surace.jpg
Anthony Surace.
Surace doesn't argue that users should be able to publish Post pieces in their entirety without a go-ahead from the paper. But he feels Righthaven's methodology "is definitely too heavy-handed, since historically, when the Denver Post sends out cease-and-desist letters to blogs, they comply."

His prime example: Colorado Pols, which stopped excerpting any Denver Post content last year after an attorney for the paper accused it of violating a gentleman's agreement to use only a few paragraphs when referencing its work, rather than five or more. Colorado Pols' Jason Bane said no such pact existed, and further declared that his site doesn't need to draw from the Denver Post to cover the political scene in the state.

From Surace's perspective, "automated spam blogs that pull stuff from newspaper articles and blog posts" are a far bigger problem than political websites like his, "but they're not going after them. The Post's targets are a small-potatoes Tea Party group in South Carolina and The Drudge Report -- and I can only imagine how much traffic he's sending them."

Filing lawsuits rather than sending letters "is causing a lot of bad blood in the blogging community," he continues, "and I think it's going to be really bad for them. To survive, they need to drive people to their websites in order to keep their online advertising going. And in looking at some of the statements by [MediaNews chairman] Dean Singleton and some of the other newspapers involved, it tells me they've somehow deluded themselves into thinking these lawsuits are going to stop copyright infringement and make newspapers more viable than they are, instead of figuring out an online advertising model to sustain them."

Because Surace has been busy with other websites, including DenverPoliceTransparency.org, which tracks brutality and excessive-force complaints leveled against the Denver Police Department, he hasn't had time to check all the Rocky Mountain Right items individually -- nor has he been able to write a program that would do the job for him. Hence, he's had to push back his goal of getting Rocky Mountain Right back online by January. In the meantime, he believes that the thermonuclear option to copyright protection being used by Righthaven and MediaNews Group "is going to do nothing more than hurt them in the long run."

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

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19 comments
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Ken
Ken

The law firm of Righthaven LLC, located in Las Vegas, NV has discovered a new way to make money. They find a photo, or article on one of their clients newspapers that would be of interest to a large number of people, then after the photo or article has been displayed on a conservative website, they obtain the copyright to it, then sue for $150,000. Think it couldn’t happen to you? I know of one young man who is autistic, has brittle diabetes, attention deficit disorder, and runs a website as a hobby. His only source of income is SSI. Righthaven threatened to have his SSI garnished if he didn’t pay them $6,000. I guess they didn’t realize what they had threatened was against the law. You can’t garnish SSI because it isn’t an entitlement, it is a necessity. They go for anyone they think they can legally extort.

Jahfre
Jahfre

Anything that can be cut and pasted should be treated as public domain.-Jahfre Fire Eater

blizzardo
blizzardo

The Denver Post long ago ceased being a real news organization. Now it's just a mouthpiece for the establishment to the extent it has any news at all. It's sad to see because the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News used to have respected places in this community as must-read independent voices for intelligent readers.

Joe
Joe

Go be your own independent voice Blizzardo. Hire a staff, pay them to compile stories, put them on your website that you paid for and enjoy the fruits!Oh, but you say you just want to copy and paste what's on the Post, put a new headline on it and call it your own? Not very independent Blizzardo. No soup for you.

Guest
Guest

Yep. Those righties sure like personal responsibility, except when it comes to their own actions. Then they're victims!

DB
DB

Then why can't these "independent voices" do their own work rather than relying on that death-rattling ol' newspaper?

Reasonable
Reasonable

Who says they "rely" on the DP? That they quote the Post should flatter that paper. People will click on the link, go to the DP and see the whole piece. Maybe even go back again. Where's the harm?

Wronghaven
Wronghaven

Probably not a bad plan given that they are suing some old lady with a cat blog for $150,000. This is the desperate death rattle of an industry that either refuses to or can't figure out how to adapt to the 21st century.

DB - Maybe you should look at some of Righthaven's despicable history before branding their critics as "whiners."

http://righthavenvictims.blogs...

Bob
Bob

Are you sure about that? Someone posted that the DP's website has four times the traffic of its next competitor. No question they posts news pretty fast after it happens day and night, and they have stuff about the Broncos while the games are going on, and TV and radio websites don't, usually. They appear to produce a lot of videos now, too, and they carry debates on streaming video. As for newspapers in general, well, you and all these other people are spending your time posting comments on a newspaper's website, so there's that. So now they are clamping down on competitors who steal their copyrighted material, which is practical. Tell me again how this industry "can't figure out how to adapt to the 21st Century"? I have no patience for this "whiners" who say they would have taken the material down if someone had called them. How about this? Why didn't they call to get permission to put it up?

DB
DB

So you don't like their lawyers. People on the losing end of lawsuits have a tendency to feel that way. Thanks for sharing.

Andrew
Andrew

The Denver Post is a sinking ship. Who actually gets news from this rag anymore?

William
William

Quite a few Andrew. Post's website is the traffic leader in Colorado, by a factor of four over its nearest competitor. But don't let the facts get in the way of your bile

Harrison
Harrison

I believe the Post is still the largest printed newspaper between Chicago and Los Angeles. I guess it's like Yogi Berra said, "The place is so crowded nobody goes there anymore," huh, Andrew?

DB
DB

Sorry, Mr. Surace, it's nearly impossible to make a sympathetic case for others using for free the work that another business paid to produce. That is no different than me borrowing a car at Rocky's Auto every morning to run my courier business around town (don't worry, I'll only drive it a short distance and I'll tell everyone where I got it -- fair use, you know). Singleton is also wiley. He knows a lot of these "news" websites that compete for the same small pool of online advertising dollars will go under if they have to hire reporters and do the expensive work of journalism, rather than copying and pasting links onto their website for free, so give him credit for being smart. In the long run it's good for the profession and practice of journalism, because you get what you pay for and free content is a business plan that eventually circles the drain for everybody involved. Whiners who had rather not pay is completely predictable, but their arguments are empty. Perhaps rather than whining about everyone canceling their subscriptions to the Post, Mr. Surace would have been more mature and professional by offering to pay part of Mike Rosen's salary, instead. But that would mean it's not free.

Ken Raye
Ken Raye

In other words you are saying that you should be paying for your comment here, and if Righthaven wants to copyright what you just said, that's ok because they paid for it. Then when you post it on another site they can sue you for copyright infringement. Can't happen? Sorry, it already has. Someone was sued for posting his own work on his own website. Apparently you need to go back to your desk at Righthaven and stick to something you actually know, but in the case of Righhaven, I doubt if anyone there knows what they are doing. All they want to do is find something someone may want to share, copyright it, then sue the person that shared it, even though it says on the Denver Post article "Share this gallery"

Ken
Ken

DB Righthaven has sued many who are well within their fare use rights. Infact they are now flaunting the law by suing Pajamas Media that has a DMCA Safe Harbors registration which requires them to send a take down notice before any legal proceedings.

You may not believe in fair use but fair use benefits the copyright owners as well as the users. So go back to your office in Righthaven you stooge.

DB
DB

If I am breaking the law, does someone really have to threaten me first before they can do anything about it? That seems counterintuitive. That means cops should have to write me a warning ticket first. If it was "fare use" then I'm sure Dean Singleton would be willing to talk to them, but, again, it's people who want to profit off the work but not pay anything for it. My understanding of "fair use" is that the reuse must be to critique or satirize what's in the original work, not substitute stolen content for work someone else wants but simply doesn't want to pay to produce themselves.

Joe
Joe

Great point DB. "How come we can't just take the work of others, use what we want from it for free, then collect all the money from it and not share it with the original content creator?"Waaaaah. Life's not fair!

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