Denver Post management has taken aim over the past year at the internet, apparently sweeping the web routinely for Denver Post content and threatening litigation if it finds unlicensed material floating free of the Denver Post brand. It sent a letter to popular blogsite ColoradoPols this past summer sounding Orwellian warnings against quoting even the smallest amount of material from the paper. The Post has now sued the national conservative politics Drudge Report for running a Denver Post photo. The Las Vegas company suing on behalf of the Post is asking for $150,000 and for Matt Drudge to surrender his popular website domain names drudgereport.com and drudgereportarchives.com.
Righthaven LLC filed the suit on Wednesday, according to the Las Vegas Sun, which also suggests Righthaven is making good business of newspaper struggles in the digital age. Since March, Righthaven has filed more than 181 copyright lawsuits against website operators and bloggers.
“Righthaven finds online infringements, obtains copyrights to the infringed material and then sues the alleged infringers on a retroactive basis,” the Sun reports. “Righthaven and Stephens Media have said the lawsuits are necessary to protect the newspaper industry’s copyrights.”
On the Post’s part, the high-profile move seems more symbolic than anything, the seriousness of the threat hardly matching the unseriousness of the alleged crime. Usually the owner of copyrighted material issues a warning that simply asks for payment or for copyrighted material to be taken down. Critics see the suit filed on behalf of the Post Wednesday as frivolous and, according to the Sun, “part of a settlement shakedown campaign.”
MediaNews Group, which owns the Post, has struggled to keep the paper afloat as subscriptions have receded and as online news has exploded over the last decade. The paper has publicly wrestled with the question of how to ward off content pirates this year.
In addition to threatening ColoradoPols bloggers, the paper ran a prominently placed editorial last month warning against infringements but also acknowledging that writers online could quote some small amounts from the paper. The editors added that readers might even choose to criticize material quoted from the Post, an afterthought reminder that seemed to stretch to American readers from somewhere in the former Soviet bloc or from a future world of corporate governance.
“We have no issue with people who quote a small amount of a Post story so as to comment on it, perhaps even criticize us. That’s the essence of free speech in a vigorous democracy.”