Many of you feel that it is okay to republish a news story on your Websites or in a forum you visit. The law says this is not okay — that it’s a violation of copyright. Until science fiction and fantasy fans have gotten away with republishing news stories without permission because there are so many of us. The thinking has been there are too many people to sue so enforcement has been a nightmare.
A newly formed company called Righthaven LLC is banking on that attitude. They are buying up the copyrights from newspaper publishers whose stories have been reposted on blogs and forums without permission, and they are filing lawsuits against those Websites’ operators. Although forum operators may be protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act if the infringing material is posted by members without the operators’ knowledge, Righthaven is still filing lawsuits rather than sending DMCA takedown notices.
They are counting on the huge number of infringements across the Web (which runs into the millions if not billions) to keep them in business. They are a copyright collection agency. Some collection agencies buy up “charged off” debt and try to collect it. They may pay only 1% to the banks that charge off the debt but they’ll try to collect up to 100% of the debt.
Righthaven LLC’s business operates in much the same way. They are only buying copyright for articles that have been republished without permission. They are searching the Web for people to sue. In most cases the lawsuits are settled out of court for anywhere from $1500 to $3500. I have written more about this situation at SF-Fandom the thread Before You Post That News Story On Your Site.
Please don’t assume you can get away with this. Now that someone is actually building a business around filing lawsuits, their only incentive is to find more people who have infringed copyright and file lawsuits. They are a machine churning out paperwork. Most of you cannot afford to hire an attorney and if you have posted these articles on your own sites no attorney would agree to represent you anyway.
If Righthaven can turn a profit by pursuing as many lawsuits as possible, other companies will join them.