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Screenshot from PaidContent's report on the once confidential Righthaven deal, made available through a recent court ruling.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s contract with copyright enforcement group Righthaven has been “unsealed” by a federal judge, PaidContent reported. The newspaper has a daily circulation of approximately 172,000

As StinkyJournalism has been reporting, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post have employed Righthaven to file at least 250 lawsuits alleging copyright infringement since May 2010 and December 2010, respectively. PaidContent summarizes Righthaven’s scheme in a previous report, also by Joe Mullin:

“Righthaven operates by finding websites, mostly small-time blogs, that have copied articles or photos from the websites of newspapers it works with, primarily The Denver Post and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Rather than ask for the material to be removed, Righthaven sues those websites, typically demanding $150,000 in damages and a transfer of their domain name.” .

According to PaidContent’s story on the contract, the Review-Journal’s parent company and Righthaven “are splitting their net earnings” from their lawsuits alleging copyright infringement.

And, Stephens Media, the Review-Journal’s parent company, has the right to end any lawsuit if the alleged copyright offender probably has no money, is a “charitable organization,” or is a potential business partner. And yet, PaidContent noted, “Righthaven has sued charities, impoverished hobby bloggers, reporters, and the newspaper’s own sources” and the newspaper partner let them.

PaidContent also noted that the contract states that Righthaven only has the “right to sue” but not the copyright to the articles, a contract clause that could be used against Righthaven, according to the Democratic Underground’s Memorandum.

If the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is countering Righthaven’s suit against the website Democratic Underground, gets a judge to call Righthaven’s suits “a sham,” then potentially all of Righthaven’s suits on behalf of both the ReviewJournal and the Denver Post could be called into question, PaidContent wrote.

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As Ars Technica noted, the judge also criticized Righthaven when he “unsealed” the agreement. The judge reportedly wrote:

“The use of phrases, in the Motion to Strike, such as ‘underhanded,’ ‘a ruse,’ ‘blatantly ignored,’ ‘brazen attempt,’ ‘fumbling attempt,’ ‘purposefully muddle,’ and ‘complaint reeks of hypocrisy,’ is a very unprofessional attempt to attack counsel rather than address the issues.

“There is an old adage in the law that, if the facts are on your side, you pound on the facts. If the law is on your side, you pound on the law. If neither the facts nor the law is on your side, you pound on the table. It appears there is a lot of table pounding going on here.”

In a separate lawsuit case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted that a Nevada judge ruled that Righthaven has “no legal basis” to “seize domain names as a remedy for copyright infringement.”

In many of its suits, Righthaven has called for a large settlement fee and the domain name of the alleged offenders.

See StinkyJournalism’s coverage of Righthaven and its lawsuits here.

iMediaEthics is contacting the Democratic Underground for further comments.

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Judge Unseals Las Vegas Review-Journal Confidential Deal with Righthaven

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