To Sue or Not to Sue

Post a story from the Las Vegas Review-Journal on your website and you’ll get sued. That’s what the Las Vegas law firm Righthaven says, and there’s reason to think they mean it: as of last week, Righthaven has filed some 250 lawsuits against people who posted content from the Review-Journal and the Denver Post, sites as prominent as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and as obscure as

So why, we wondered, are two candidates in the Las Vegas mayor’s race seemingly getting a pass from these stalwart enforcers of copyright law?

As of March 21, candidates Carolyn Goodman and Victor Chaltiel had both posted entire articles about their candidacies copied from the R-J, the same no-no that has typically resulted in suits seeking $150,000 in damages and the forfeiture of domain names from websites. (Candidates Larry Brown, Steve Ross and Chris Giunchigliani played it safer by posting headlines, a paragraph or two from the R-J and links to the paper’s site.)

It’s reminiscent of last fall, when Righthaven took flak for not suing Senate candidate Sharron Angle when she posted R-J content on her election site. (Righthaven ultimately did sue Angle, and settled out of court in November.)

Righthaven CEO Steven Gibson says it would be a mistake to read any political motives into the lack of legal action to date. “I think we’ve demonstrated that Righthaven is apolitical,” Gibson says. “People have accused me of being in cahoots with President Obama and of being a right-leaning organization.”

Righthaven’s business model has been to find potential copyright violations for a particular story, then purchase the copyright to the story from Stephens Media, the R-J’s parent company. It’s a big job to keep tabs on all those potential lawsuits … err, copyright infringements … even those that pop up in a high-profile election.

“It may very well be the case [stories posted by Goodman and Chaltiel are] Righthaven-owned works and it may very well be addressed,” Gibson says.

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