New Newspaper Business Model: Create Compelling Graphic, Wait For Others To Use It... And Then Sue

from the righthaven-way dept

As a bunch of folks have been submitting, it appears that Righthaven's latest strategic shift is to sue a bunch of sites that posted a popular illustration that was published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The story had to do with the so-called "Vdara death ray." The Vdara hotel on the Strip in Vegas apparently was built in such a way that at certain points, the sun would reflect off of the building in a focused manner, down towards the guest pool area, and it actually singed one guest's hair. The story is the sort of thing that goes viral quickly, and became fodder for talk shows and comedians and such. And, not surprisingly, a variety of sites used the illustration that was published in the LVRJ to explain the "death ray." So, now, of course, Righthaven is suing a whole bunch of them. Considering that this is a story about the image, and we're commenting specifically on the image itself (not just the story), it seems likely that posting this particular image here is fair use -- though I will follow Wired's lead and use the version of the image that was from the lawsuit filing, rather than the original image:
While the specifics in different cases may vary, I would imagine many would have strong fair use claims as well. It's hard to see how posting this image harms the LVRJ, and it seems quite likely that it would actually draw more people to finding the original article. To be honest, I first heard about the Vdara death ray a few months back when I saw this image on another site, and then went to the original LVRJ article.

Either way, with this new effort, it suggests increasing desperation on Righthaven's part. But, you can just see the next step should these cases actually lead to cash: just keep creating "viral" type images, wait until people highlight them, and then sue, sue, sue, until the world over learns to simply avoid the LVRJ or other Righthaven associated newspapers entirely.

Filed Under: copyright, death ray, fair use, images, las vegas review-journal, vdara
Companies: righthaven, stephens media

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  1. icon
    average_joe (profile), 22 Dec 2010 @ 8:50pm

    Re: TOS and UA vesus copyright

    First of all, do you have a registered DMCA agent? If not, you should fill out the paperwork with the Copyright Office ASAP. This can save you from being sued by Righthaven in the first place for the actions of your users. If you have a registered agent, Righthaven has to request you remove the infringing content before they can sue you.

    Your TOS, if they're enforceable, do not affect third-parties like Righthaven since they never agreed to your TOS. If Righthaven is suing you for your poster's actions, the theory is either contributory infringement (knowledge plus material contribution on your part) or vicarious infringement (financial benefit plus right to supervise on your part). In either case, you are potentially liable for the actions of your users, and the fact that your users are bound by the TOS is irrelevant to whether or not Righthaven is.

    The issue of whether or not Righthaven can sue an out-of-state defendant in Nevada would be governed by Nevada's long arm statute. Typically jurisdictional analysis requires a finding of purposeful availment and minimum contacts. The idea is that by you or your users taking actions that have an effect in Nevada, you are opening yourself up to liability in that state.

    Hope this helps.

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