New Newspaper Survival Strategy: Sue Everybody

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Can an army of copyright lawyers provide a viable business model for the news industry?

Las Vegas-based Righthaven has begun buying the copyrights to newspaper content–with the newspapers’ blessing–in order to sue blogs and websites that repost the content, reports Wired’s Threat Level blog. And, says Righthaven CEO Steve Gibson, he’s making money.

“We believe it’s the best solution out there,” Gibson told Wired. “Media companies’ assets are very much their copyrights. These companies need to understand and appreciate that those assets have value more than merely the present advertising revenues.”

Since the company’s formation in March, Righthaven has filed 80 federal lawsuits on behalf of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, his first client. “Hundreds” of lawsuits will be filed by year-end.

This is reminiscent, Wired points out, of the RIAA suing file-sharers and indie filmmakers calling themselves the US Copyright Group suing people sharing their movies; the RIAA’s lawsuit campaign wasn’t profitable, but the US Copyright Group expects to turn a profit.

Most of the cases in both these examples were settled out of court for $1,500 to $3,500—or about what it would cost for defendants to retain a lawyer.

This is also, of course, reminiscent of the AP’s plan to sue bloggers (which it later claimed was misinterpreted).

Gibson has already settled several Righthaven suits for undisclosed amounts, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s parent company, which owns 70 other newspapers in nine states, is asking Righthaven to expand his work. So he’s set, for a while at least, Who says there are no jobs in media?