Company Helps Stephens-Owned Paper Target Alleged Copyright Violators

Righthaven

Outtakes has been watching the activities of a company called Righthaven LLC of Las Vegas. Run by a lawyer named Steve Gibson, Righthaven struck a deal to sue the operators of Internet sites, including casual bloggers, that post copyrighted material from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

So why is Outtakes interested? Well, the casual lifting of material that has been produced at no small expense is of interest to every news organization. But most interesting is the fact that the Review-Journal is the flagship paper of Stephens Media, which is based in Las Vegas but owned by the Stephens family (Warren Stephens and his cousins Witt Stephens Jr. and Elizabeth Stephens Campbell) of Little Rock.

According to reports from news organizations as far-flung as Wired magazine and the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, Righthaven has filed close to 100 federal lawsuits alleging violations of the Review-Journal's copyrights. The defendants have included a blogger for cat fanciers (which made the mistake of cutting and pasting a Review-Journal story about birds that died in a fire at a wildlife sanctuary) to a blog for emergency medical technicians on which a reader posted a Review-Journal story in the comments section. And Righthaven has been demanding cash to settle since the Copyright Act allows penalties of up to $150,000 for a single infringement.

A Facebook group has sprung up called "stop the LVRJ/RIGHTHAVEN witch hunt!," and last week it had almost 200 members. Apparently the biggest objection is the fact that Righthaven tends to sue without so much as a warning letter or cease-and-desist demand.

And now there's this: According to Wired, Gibson has an agreement to expand his Internet policing to unauthorized use of other Stephens Media content, which would presumably include the Pine Bluff Commercial, Southwest Times-Record in Fort Smith, The Times of North Little Rock, Arkansas News Bureau, etc.

So local bloggers, beware: The penalty for lifting material from a Stephens Media property may be a lot more painful than an ugly letter.