2010-09-10

Righthaven Copyright Suits are like Property Repossession in the Extreme

Why do I say this? (It's from this article (Mike Masnick, TechDirt).) Read on, dear readers.
I have previously written about patent troll company Intellectual Ventures and how they claim to invent new things when all they do (aside from not inventing a single thing) is buy other companies' patents for the sole purpose of suing people who infringe upon those patents. Well, that concept seems to have been extended to Righthaven, which is a copyright troll. All it does is buy newspaper articles' copyrights for the sole purpose of suing people who infringe upon these copyrights, and it, unlike Intellectual Ventures, seems totally honest about its motives — instead of couching its actions in language about how newspapers cannot afford to lose in the fight against copyright infringement and piracy, its CEO essentially says straight up that it's out to make the big bucks by filing as many lawsuits as possible. Furthermore, it's going after people who write content online who copy even small portions (e.g. sentences, small paragraphs) of published articles and give proper attribution (and who link back to the original articles); I think this is a violation of the ideas of fair use and attribution, all for the purpose of making money.
So what's the news here? Well, not only is Righthaven suing the pants off of some websites that republish small parts of articles and attribute and link to them properly, it's even demanding that these sites hand over their domain names. What?
The TechDirt article is probably right (or so I hope) that this is most likely a scare tactic, in that most websites would rather settle the lawsuit out-of-court than fight, lose, and actually give up the domain name, as almost all defendants have settled out of court, while none have actually ceded their domain names. That said, assume for a moment that Righthaven is serious about its demands.
What does this mean? Imagine for a moment that Jill stole a lamp from a store to decorate his house. The analog of what Righthaven is doing is if after Jill returned the lamp to the store (under the force of the law) and served his jail time, the store owner further demanded possession of Jill's entire house and its contents.
No, that isn't quite accurate either. Imagine again that instead of Jill stealing a lamp, Jill borrowed a screwdriver from Dave to fix Bonnie's bicycle, told Dave what she was going to use the screwdriver for and when she would return it, and told Bonnie who the owner of the screwdriver was and when she would return it. Righthaven's actions are like Dave accusing Jill of stealing the screwdriver, taking her to court for it, and demanding repossession of both Jill's house and Bonnie's bicycle.
Is that a good analogy? It's something I thought of at the spur of the moment, so let me know how I can improve on this in the comments. In any case, isn't the whole sage just ridiculous?

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