Here’s to lifting your ledes:

A federal judge ruled Monday that publishing an entire article without the rights holder’s authorization was a fair use of the work, in yet another blow to newspaper copyright troll Righthaven.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, because

[i]t’s not often that republishing an entire work without permission is deemed fair use.

So add this blog post to the list of daily updates to jeopardize this journal.

Reposting segments from articles is a mainstay in the blogosphere. Republishing entire articles, however, may amount to copyright infringement.  Monday’s action was just one of more than 250 lawsuits making such allegations from newspaper custodian Righthaven LLC.

Urban blogging

Righthaven, a copyright holding company, partners with newspapers to litigate infringement. This Monday, in Righthaven, LLC v. Hoehn (pdf), the District of Nevada granted a motion for summary judgment on behalf of the defendant, a registered user on madjacksports.com. Hoehn, a Vietnam veteran, had reposted an entire article from the Las Vegas Review Journal on the site’s message board. He argued that his actions amounted to fair use.

Fair use is an affirmative defense to copyright infringement codified in the Copyright Act of 1976. The defense is reserved for “purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching . . . scholarship, or research.” To determine whether it applies, courts consider (1) the purpose of the use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount of the copyrighted work used; and (4) the effect on the copyrighted work’s market value.

In Monday’s order, the court found that only the third factor favored Righthaven. The Court reasoned that Hoehn reposted for a noncommercial purpose. The article was a noncreative work, and Righthaven failed to show the posting had any harm on the article’s value.

But forget fair use. Monday’s ruling may be the least of Righthaven’s worries. On Wednesday, a court ruled Righthaven lacked standing to seek damages on copyrights it doesn’t own.

-Mike Walker

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One Response to Court finds Righthaven wrong

  1. ebeth says:

    Righthaven isn’t getting any luckier. Five more suits were dismissed this spring after the court determined that flawed copyright agreements prevented the company from satisfying the standing requirements. More info here: http://www.vegasinc.com/news/2012/mar/21/five-righthaven-lawsuits-dismissed-denver/