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November 22, 2014

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Commentary: Righthaven suit continues to backfire, new suits filed

Righthaven LLC's lawsuit against journalist Eriq Gardner backfired in more ways than one.

Besides embarrassing the Las Vegas company for a suit that should never have been filed, news coverage of the lawsuit is now exposing more people to the Denver Post TSA pat-down photo that Righthaven claims to own with its copyright.

But this new exposure for the photo won't yield a dime of revenue for the Denver Post or Righthaven.

That's because this exposure of the photo, as it appeared on the Drudge Report, is in the form of Google thumbnail images that now pop up in Google searches for Righthaven.

They pop up with the Ars Technica story on Righthaven's dismissal of its lawsuit against Gardner, the Ars Technica freelancer.

They pop up next to the headline "Copyright troll Righthaven's epic blunder: a lawsuit targeting Ars."

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Amidst all the excitement about the suit against Gardner, Righthaven filed three more lawsuits alleging copyright infringement involving the TSA pat-down photo.

The latest to be sued by Righthaven in federal court in Colorado were:

• Neil Rosekrans (statebrief.com)

• Christopher Szaz (asmallcornerofsanity.com)

• Hetal Jannu (uberpix.net)

Messages for comment were left with Rosekrans and Jannu. Szaz couldn't be located for comment.

As usual Righthaven demands damages of $150,000 apiece and forfeiture of the defendants' website domain names to Righthaven.

These bring to at least 261 the number of lawsuits Righthaven has filed since March 2010 over Denver Post and Las Vegas Review-Journal material; and to 57 the number of suits over the pat-down photo.

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Another commentator is weighing in on the theory that Righthaven's lawsuit campaign has been counterproductive in terms of protecting newspaper content from rampant online infringements.

Two of its suits have now been rejected on fair-use grounds -- including one involving an entire Review-Journal story posted on the website of an Oregon nonprofit.

Righthaven plans to appeal, but in the meantime we now have case law reducing -- not expanding -- legal protection of newspaper content.

"If I were a traditional news publisher with an expansive view of copyright law, I’d be furious at Righthaven," Massachusetts attorney Joel Sage wrote in a post on the website of Harvard University's Citizen Media Law Project.

"Insofar as Righthaven’s tactics are often, in practice, little better than bullying, it is little wonder that judges seem to be doing everything they can to give Righthaven's defendants the benefit of the doubt — even if this ends up constricting the rights of established media players," Sage wrote.

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