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A new way for newspapers to make money

A Las Vegas firm named Righthaven has opened with the sole purpose of enforcing the copyrights of newspapers by suing blogs and websites that re-post articles without permission, Wired magazine reports.

The vision of Righthaven chief executive Steve Gibson is to scour the internet for infringing copies of his client’s articles. Then he sues, relying on the harsh penalties in the Copyright Act — up to $150,000 for a single infringement — to compel quick settlements, according to Wired.

Wired reports that since Righthaven’s formation in March, the company has filed at least 80 federal lawsuits against website operators and individual bloggers who’ve re-posted articles from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, his first client.

The Wired story says: “The Review-Journal’s publisher, Stephens Media in Las Vegas, runs over 70 other newspapers in nine states, and Gibson says he already has an agreement to expand his practice to cover those properties.”

Actually, Stephens (formerly known as Donrey Media Group) only owns about 30 papers outright — in Nevada, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Washington and Hawaii. But it is a minority shareholder in the MediaNews Group newspapers in California, including the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Marin Independent Journal, San Mateo County Times, etc.

The “70 newspapers” probably includes the MediaNews properties in which Stephens is a shareholder, so it may not be long before MNG is suing people through Righthaven who use their content.

Wired interviewed Fred Bouzek, a Virginia man who runs a user-generated site about hardcore biker news, who was sued by Righthaven last week on allegations the site ran a Las Vegas Review-Journal story about police going under cover with the Hell’s Angels. Bouzek said that even if he had grounds to fight the case, he says it would be cheaper to settle. “The only choice I have is to try to raise money and offer a settlement,” he says.

The story about Righthaven comes less than a month after a Denver political blogger announced he had received a cease-and-desist letter from several newspapers in Colorado including MediaNews Group’s Denver Post for quoting copyrighted material.

Also read: An earlier story on Righthaven by MediaPost.

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