A lot of things can be said about attorney Steve Gibson and his copyright troll firm Righthaven LLC. Crafty, slick, tricky, or sly might apply but smart really isn’t one of them.
Reporter Eriq Gardner is being sued by Righthaven for his article in Ars Technica about a Righthaven lawsuit. That lawsuit was one that Righthaven brought against the Drudge Report for using a picture involving a TSA patdown that appeared in the Denver Post. Gardner used a grainy, black and white photo and the headline in question to show his readers what the Drudge Report was being sued over. His caption on the photo shown in his article read: “The photo in question as it appeared on Drudge Report”.
Gardner is a contributing editor of The Hollywood Reporter and the Ars Technica article is reported to be the only one he has ever written for that publication.
It isn’t entirely clear why Righthaven chose to sue Gardner individually. But arstechnica.com is one of many websites owned by Conde Nast’s parent company, Advance Magazine Publishers, for which it has registered a DMCA takedown agent with the U.S. Copyright Office. That probably would have limited Righthaven to merely sending a takedown request to Ars—something it never does.
The story in Paid Content by Joe Mullins speculates that Gardner got the photo from court documents which are in the public domain.
Steve Gibson was asked if this lawsuit was due to the negative story about Righthaven.
Gibson wouldn’t answer that. Noting that the photo in question appeared to be pulled from court records, I asked: “Do you believe reporters have a right to use court documents to report on Righthaven?” Gibson didn’t really answer that one either, saying: “That’s going to be based on facts and circumstances.” He said he disagreed with the premise of my question, and went on to say: “The line of your questioning is so intimate with the issues that are going to be litigated before the court, I don’t feel comfortable having any further discussion on this subject matter with you.”
There is an old saying that you don’t pick fights with people who buy ink by the gallon. Somewhere along the way Steve Gibson and Righthaven LLC never learned that piece of wisdom. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. My guess is that Righthaven is going to be very sorry that they filed this lawsuit.
UPDATE: Well that didn’t take long. Today, attorneys for Righthaven marched into U.S. District Court in Las Vegas and said, oops, sorry, we didn’t mean to sue you, and we’d like to ask for a Voluntary Dismissal With Prejudice.
The Ars Technica website discusses the story which they are calling “Righthaven’s epic blunder”.
Not content with just suing sources, small out-of-state nonprofits, bloggers who get 20 hits per day, and other massive copyright pirates, newspaper litigation firm Righthaven this week trained its guns on Ars Technica. The company filed a federal lawsuit against one of our freelance writers over a post (about Righthaven) that appeared on the site back in December—only to dismiss it this morning.
Why was the case ever brought? It was (cough) a “clerical mistake.”
Steve Green of the Las Vegas Sun – the journalist who has followed the copyright trolls of Righthaven since day one – has an article about this case as well. He quotes journalist Eriq Gardner on the case:
“I’d buy a ‘I survived Righthaven’ T-shirt, but won’t for trademark reasons,” Gardner quipped in a Twitter tweet after the dismissal.
Green also quotes one Las Vegas attorney familiar with the cases as saying Righthaven “must have been insane” to have even brought this case as it was clearly “fair use”.