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Copywrongs, righted

Yes, Virginia, there is a fair use clause.

"Righthaven is neither the owner nor exclusive holder of any rights in the copyrighted work underlying this lawsuit. As such, Righthaven has suffered no injury or other cognizable harm required for it to have standing’’ to sue, said one of the filings by attorneys Marc J. Randazza and J. Malcolm DeVoy IV.

"Indeed, the agreement makes it abundantly clear that Righthaven actually has no rights in the copyrights it claims,’’ the filing said.

For non-attorneys wondering why the copyright assignment issue is so important, Randazza and DeVoy explained it this way in a court filing in another Righthaven case: Providing Righthaven only rights to sue isn’t a procedure intended by the federal Copyright Act.

"Righthaven’s practices create a secondary commodities market for copyrights, or exclusive subsidiary rights in copyrights, to be used only in suing others who may have valid defenses, but cannot afford to raise them — or engage counsel whatsoever," they said in a case where they and New York copyright attorney Ron Coleman represent the Media Bloggers Association.

Righthaven, co-owned by Las Vegas attorney Steven Gibson and an affiliate of Stephens Media, since March 2010 has filed 264 lawsuits in federal courts in Nevada, Colorado and South Carolina over Review-Journal and Denver Post material.

They said Righthaven perpetrated upon the court a "sham’’ and a "fraud’’ hundreds of times in its lawsuits by claiming in the lawsuits that Righthaven "owns’’ the copyrighted stories, photos and graphics it sues over, and has exclusive rights to reproduce and distribute them, when in fact its contract with Stephens Media says Stephens Media retains those rights.

I'm no big fan of remix culture: I much prefer original works of art/journalism to someone lifting content from someone else and claiming it as their own.

However, we need to take a long, hard look at how copyright is used and abused in our society. What once began as a way for artists and publishers to maintain control of and profit from their works has taken on a life of its own, leading to abuses like Righthaven, copyrighted DNA, and software (aka math) patents. Innovation comes from risk-taking, and if you can't take risks in society today without a posse of lawyers.

Information (and creativity) wants to be free.

“Copywrongs, righted”