The Denver Post has now used copyright protection firm Righthaven to sue a blogger for “alleged copyright infringement,” the Las Vegas Sun reported Dec. 5.
According to the Sun, the lawsuit is significant for the Righthaven suits because “it now involves MediaNews, which calls itself the nation’s second largest media company.”
Previously Righthaven was well-known for enforcing copyright protections of only the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s material. After losing one of its lawsuits, however, Righthaven claimed it would be narrowing the scope of its suits.
The Denver Post lawsuit, filed Dec 2, alleges that South Carolina blogger Dana Eiser of lowcountry912.wordpress.com violated the copyright of a Sept. 23 Denver Post column by Mike Rosen. (The Lowcountry 912 blog names Dana Eiser-Bertoluzzi as the president of the group.)
Lowcountry 912 is a blog described as “a pro-active grassroots movement that is searching for ways to make a difference, both locally, statewide and federally.” The blog is described as politically conservative.
The Righthaven lawsuits have been controversial for two reasons: First, Righthaven has reportedly sought copyright from the U.S. Copyright Office just before filing lawsuits. Second, while typically news outlets ask online publishers to remove content before suing, Righthaven has been suing without prior contact.
According to the Sun, “Righthaven applied to the U.S. Copyright Office for rights to the Denver Post column” on Nov. 19, two weeks before the lawsuit was filed.
As iMediaEthics reported a few weeks ago, the Denver Post published “a notice to readers” reminding readers that Post material is copyrighted. iMediaEthics wondered at the time if the Post would be following the Las Vegas Review–Journal and begin suing for alleged copyright violations via Righthaven.
Interestingly, the Post, in its readers notice, defined fair use as “a headline and up to a couple of paragraphs or a summary of the story.”
But, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is working with at least one defendant in a Las Vegas Review-Journal/Righthaven lawsuit, countered that definition in an e-mail to StinkyJournalism last month. “They may believe that fair use allows only a couple of paragraphs and a headline, but that’s not actually the rule: in appropriate circumstances, fair use may allow more than that, up to and including the entire article,” the EFF Senior Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry stated to StinkyJournalism.
iMediaEthics first started covering the Review-Journal’s lawsuits in June.
iMediaEthics has written to Dana Eiser-Bertoluzzi and the Denver Post. We will update with any response.
UPDATE: 12/06/2010 4:55 PM EST: iMediaEthics spoke with Eiser-Bertoluzzi by phone. She told us that she hasn’t been served with any papers or contacted by a law firm or Righthaven ever regarding the post. “I have not been personally served,” Eiser-Bertoluzzi said.
She said that iMediaEthics’ e-mail to her asking for comment “was the first I’ve heard” of the lawsuit. Lowcountry912 hasn’t been asked to take down the column, she said.
Eiser-Bertoluzzi confirmed that she is the president of Lowcountry912, which she described as “a very small grassroots organization with about 50 members.”
UPDATE: 12/08/2010 9:38 AM EST: Eiser-Bertoluzzi told iMediaEthics via e-mail that “The article has been removed” from Lowcountry 912’s site.
UPDATE: 12/08/2010 12:50 PM EST: Eiser-Bertoluzzi told iMediaEthics via e-mail that she “was served with the summons yesterday.”