Content|September 10, 2011| Author: Kim LaCapria|Tags: , ,

MediaNews Group Cuts Ties With ‘Copyright Troll’ Righthaven

Bloggers and other users of new media can breathe a bit more easily- with each subsequent update, it seems the “copyright trolling” law firm Righthaven is seeing their widely criticized, anti-new media litigation rejected by courts and now its one-time newspaper ally, MediaNews Group.

It’s no secret old media would like nothing more than those upstart blogs and news sites- save for theirs- to be sanctioned with crippling fines for exercising their rights under fair use laws. But scarily for all of us, interpretation of the law often depends on the venue and the jurists, and very much of this is still new and developing- existing in somewhat of a legal grey area. And as judges one by one create rulings that set precedent, an outfit like Righthaven can do very much in the way of real harm to the future of new media.

For instance, the practice of obtaining a copyright and retroactively pursuing bloggers or web users who had violated it is one of the firm’s favorite tricks- but was viewed about as favorably by judges as it was by the bloggers who first covered it. A lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation commented during litigation that in spite of what Righthaven contended in court, it was “hard to interpret these lawsuits as anything else besides a way to bully Internet users into paying unnecessary settlements.” The company was later fined $5,000 by a judge for failing to disclose its financial ties with Stephens Media- parent of the Las Vegas Review-Journal- in court.

Now one of the largest media companies in the US- one that once threw down with the law firm- has denounced Righthaven’s strategy, with the company’s new CEO blasting MediaNews Group’s previous decision to sign up with Righthaven. Speaking to Wired, newly appointed CEO John Paton- who has been in the job all of two days- said:

“The issues about copyright are real,” Paton told Wired.com in a telephone interview. “But the idea that you would hire someone on an — essentially — success fee to run around and sue people at will who may or may not have infringed as a way of protecting yourself … does not reflect how news is created and disseminated in the modern world.”

“I come from the idea that it was a dumb idea from the start,” Paton added, noting that Righthaven was informed of the decision to end relations last month.

According to the web mag, Righthaven is “faltering,” and has not filed a new suit in two months.