by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
copyright, fair use

righthaven, toronto star

Righthaven Really Pushing Its Luck: Sues Canadian Newspaper For Misattributing Photo

from the and-still-demands-the-domain dept

For a while Righthaven and its corporate owners/partners at the Las Vegas Review Journal positioned Righthaven as being about big newspapers standing up to the grubby internet folks posting copies of newspaper articles on blogs and forums. In fact, it kept trying to get other big media operations to sign up -- with the only other paper to sign on so far being the Denver Post. Since then, Righthaven has gone a bit ballistic in suing all sorts of websites for posting a particular photo from the Denver Post (of a TSA patdown) that had gone viral. Rather than recognizing the positive benefits of the image going viral, Righthaven and the Denver Post has just seen it as a way to do a short-term money grab by suing everyone they can -- of course, without any notice or takedown requests.

In doing so, it's also started targeting much larger media organizations -- of the nature that it had been trying to get to join it earlier. We already mentioned how it had sued radio giant, Citadel Broadcasting, who one assumes has some lawyers who understand fair use and might fight back. However, it's now tackled an even more surprising target: a fellow newspaper. It's suing the Toronto Star for using the same photo.

In this case, it sounds like the Star may have just made a pretty innocent mistake: it posted the photo but attributed it to the Associated Press. While apparently the photo was not licensed by the AP, it wouldn't be that difficult to make this mistake. After all, the Denver Post is the flagship paper of MediaNews, whose chairman is Dean Singleton. Singleton is also the publisher of the Denver Post. And.... he's been the chair of the Associated Press for over a decade. So the Denver Post and MediaNews are pretty closely linked to the AP, and AP papers often contribute their content to other members, though it sounds as if that didn't happen here. So, it's not hard to see how this could just be an innocent attribution error by the Toronto Star.

You would think that basic professional courtesy in such a situation would involve an email or a phone call notifying them of this... but, that's not how Righthaven rolls. Instead, it filed its typically ridiculous lawsuit, demanding not just statutory damages, but also that the Toronto Star's URL be turned over to Righthaven. It's pretty funny every time Righthaven does this (as it does in each of its 200+ lawsuits), because there is simply no basis for demanding the domain for one minor potential infringement. Of course, as with Citadel, you'd have to imagine that the Toronto Star has lawyers who understand copyright law as well, so hopefully they'll fight this. Unfortunately, since Righthaven is perfectly happy to cave and "settle" for a few thousand (after all, that's the very basis for its business model), the Star might just pay up to make this troll go away.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    SUNWARD (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 8:13pm

    Torstar Corporation, the parent of The Star is a billion dollar company. They have lawyers

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    mike allen (profile), Mar 11th, 2011 @ 12:32am

    Yet another reason copywrong law needs a complete reform.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    The eejit (profile), Mar 11th, 2011 @ 3:05am

    I'm pretty sure there's no jurisprudence here. Can a legal eagle come and clarify, please?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    xenomancer (profile), Mar 11th, 2011 @ 3:10am

    Righthaven ought to be scrubbed from the internet like the week-old shit stain it is (bleach comes to mind, most web pages are full of white space anyway). Hopefully they'll go after the same company a few times and get a few more rulings against them. Then, MAYBE, they'll be buried in enough legal fees to finally fade away.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Shon Gale (profile), Mar 11th, 2011 @ 5:21am

    'Watson' scanned your newspaper today and added it to it's database. Did IBM pay copyright fees?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2011 @ 5:47am

    After being shook violently(literally) and almost drown(kidding I live in a mountain top) I come here and read those things, so forgive me if I will sound a bit over the edge when I say "Its the end of the world!".


    Jokes aside I hope that Righhaven get smacked soon, after super-Steele got slapped, I'm awaiting for them to get it soon too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Terry Pelz, Mar 11th, 2011 @ 7:32am


    Steven Gibson of Righthaven is acting like the suspect in a suicide by cop. He's going to implode sooner or later. Since making money is his only motive, you have to wonder if his own economic situation isn't under water.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Jack Kapica, Mar 11th, 2011 @ 11:11am


    Newspapers that are members in the Associated Press share their stories and pictures over the AP. As a result, photos such as the pat-down by the Denver Post are credited AP, not the Denver Post.

    That's why organizations like AP exist.

    This has been accepted, if not contractual, practice for many years. Suing the Toronto Star for doing something all newspapers do will be quite a feat if it succeeds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    The eejit (profile), Mar 12th, 2011 @ 12:04am

    Re: Righthaven

    That would be an amusing legal battle: Stephens Media vs. Associated Press. At least for the lawyers, anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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