Righthaven Ruining Copyright For The Rest Of Us?

Copyright enforcement company Righthaven has lost its second case, a move that could have far-reaching implications for how news is posted and distributed online, paidContent says.

Righthaven is a company that purchases the copyrights to its clients’ articles, then aggressively sues anyone who reposts the articles on blogs or other websites. So far, Righthaven has sued more than 250 blogs and websites on behalf of its clients, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the MediaNews chain.

But Righthaven lost a lawsuit on Friday when U.S. District Judge James Mahan found that it was fair use for an Oregon non-profit to post 100 percent of a Las Vegas Review-Journal article on its website.

Normally fair use only applies to excerpts–though many of Righthaven’s cases have centered around “partial copying” as well (Righthaven tried to sue Democratic Underground for excerpting five sentences from a 50-sentence long article). But if posting 100 percent of an article is legal some percent of the time, as Mahan’s decision makes it possible, it becomes harder for companies to issue takedown notices.

As PaidContent writes:
“newspaper industry lawyers can currently be sure that they’re within their rights to ask for a takedown of any full copy of a newspaper article posted online without their permission. Newspapers like The New York Times file takedown requests regularly. If this decision holds up on appeal—and it has a very good chance of doing so—that ability will be greatly diminished. Newspaper execs will have to consider what kind of person or organization made the full copy, and what for what purpose they made it. A competing commercial media company that engages in copying will still be way out of bounds—but we might find a web full of “fair uses” by non-profits and mom-and-pop bloggers.”

The key behind the ruling? First, the nonprofit in Oregon, the Center for Intercultural Organizing (CIO), serves a different market than the Review-Journal, Mahan said. Also, the nonprofit used the story for education, didn’t use it to raise money, and the story was factual rather than creative.

In addition, according to the Las Vegas Sun, “Righthaven’s use of the copyright for a lawsuit gives the copyright less protection than if the Review-Journal were using it in the normal course of delivering the news. ‘Righthaven is not using the copyright the same way the R-J used it. Righthaven is using it to support a lawsuit,’ Mahan said.”