It's been a couple of bad days for Righthaven, the U.S. law firm that's suing various blogs and news websites for full or partial copying of online newspaper postings.
The law firm recently went after several political blogs and forums, notably the progressive Democratic Underground. They also went after the blog of Tea Party movement group Lowcountry 9/12, and the group has fired back with its own lawsuit against Righthaven, and Denver Post, an article of which Righthaven had accused the Lowcountry 9/12 blog of copying.
The group claims that the Denver Post actively encourages sharing of articles. It was also noted that when sections of the text was copy and pasted from the original, a unique code is also copied that allowed Denver Post and Righthaven to track unauthorised usage, with the Tea Party group claiming this amounts to a "Trojan Horse". The group said that had the Denver Post been serious about preventing copying, they would have easily inserted text to state this fact, as opposed to secretly inserting an unique code.
The suit also cited defamation against Righthaven CEO Steven Gibson for referring to Righthaven defendants as "thieves".
Ironically, the Tea Partyers may get help from an unlikely ally, the progressive leaning website Democratic Underground (DU). This is because Righthaven's lawsuit against the forum, for a similar offence in relation to a copied article, has been thrown out and could represent the precedent needed for Lowcountry 9/12 to have their Righthaven case dismissed as well.
Judge Roger Hunt presiding over the DU case dismissed the lawsuit and chided Righthaven over not having any real legal right to sue, as the law firm was not a rights holder. Righthaven claims that they were given 'rights to sue' by the rights holders, Stephens Media, but the judge stated that there was no legal precedent that allows the 'right to sue' to be transferred to a party that doesn't hold copyright.
Righthaven was also criticised for not having disclosed Stephens Media as an interested party in the case, despite sharing proceeds with the company.
Judge Hunt also warned that unless Righthaven can explain their actions, they may face sanctions from the court, accusing Righthaven of making "multiple inaccurate and likely dishonest statements to the Court".
Righthaven has in the past sued other political websites, including Drudge Report, but that case was settled out of court.