Kevin talks about the state of mainstream journalism and their censorship agenda. What role does the federal government have in it? Plus, KT brings you some eye-opening clips.
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March 15, 2012
“The mainstream media is out of control. Even Al Jazeera has no more independence. Don’t believe what you see on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, or the other corporate owned networks. They get paid to tell lies.” –KTRN
Television channels have turned into political parties, pushing the agenda for some outside forces, former Al Jazeera correspondent in Beirut, Ali Hashem, told RT. Hashem has come in spotlight after resigning from the television citing its bias.
In emails leaked by Syrian hackers, Ali Hashem vented his anger over Al Jazeera’s one-sided coverage of Syria and its refusal to cover the events in Bahrain. In an exclusive interview with RT, the former Beirut correspondent Hashem refrained from discussing his resignation, but stressed that these days, independent media is a myth.
“There is no independent media anymore. It is whose agenda is paying the money for the media outlet,” he said. “Politicization of media means that media outlets are today like political parties. Everyone is adopting a point of view, fight for it and bring all the tools and all the means they have in order to make it reach the biggest amount of viewers.”
It is now the job of the viewer to compare the news from several different sources and then make his own conclusions, the journalist believes. “Today we are in the era of open source information and everyone can reach whatever information he wants.”
Hashem said the problem with this picture is that some news outlets can reach bigger audiences than others. “What they say will [seem] to be a fact while it might not be the fact,” he said.
Mass media should be “immune” when it comes to war and conflict, as this guarantees freedom of speech, Ali Hashem believes.
“In the year 2006, Israel bombarded Al-Manar television because they said Al- Manar was doing propaganda war against Israel,” he said. “Al-Manar was on one side of this war and they were supporting the Hezbollah and the resistance and the war against Israel. But does this give Israel the excuse to bombard Al-Manar? Certainly not.”
January 30, 2012
By Ellen Connolly
“Remember when American used to be seen as the land of the free?” –KTRN
Sweeping protests around the world made it an extremely difficult year for the media, and tested journalists as never before, the annual report into press freedom reveals.
The annual report by Reporters Without Borders has been released, showing the United States fell 27 points on the list due to the many arrests of journalists covering Occupy Wall Street protests.
The slide in the United States places it just behind Comoros and Taiwan in a group with Argentina and Romania.
Reporters Without Borders said the heightened unrest around the world resulted in a significant shake-up of the group’s annual Press Freedom Index, which assesses governments’ commitment to protecting media freedoms.
The Paris-based non-governmental Reporters Without Borders has named “crackdown” the word of 2011 in an assessment of global media freedom during a year in which journalists covering sweeping protests were tested as never before.
The non-governmental organisation seeks to defend journalists’ freedom to work and combat censorship internationally.
January 9, 2012
Broadcast Law Blog
By David Oxenford
The FCC issued a declaratory ruling this week finding that Anderson Cooper’s new talk show appeared to be a bona fide news interview program exempt from equal opportunities under the FCC’s political broadcasting rules interpreting the mandate of Section 315 of the Communications Act. This ruling is another in a series of rulings by the FCC making clear that virtually any interview-type program on which a candidate appears, that is not administered in a partisan fashion and which is regularly scheduled and regularly conducts interviews with newsmakers or discusses political issues, is exempt from equal time. The FCC has, in the past, issued such rulings for programs as diverse as the Phil Donahue program, Geraldo, Howard Stern, Entertainment Tonight, Today and a variety of other programs. As we have written before, these decisions stem from the FCC’s belief that people no longer get their news from the stereotypical Sunday morning news interview program, but instead they find news of interest in programs that might otherwise be considered entertainment or even comedy, but which regularly touch on political topics. As long as these programs are not administered so as to be a mouthpiece for a party or candidate, but instead pick their guest based on some form of journalistic discretion (“journalistic” being a very broad term – one that covers any sort of reasonable judgment as to newsworthiness or topicality), the fact that the program talks to one candidate for a public office does not require a station carrying the program to give equal time to all other candidates for that same office.
Today, Kevin explains how America has officially become one part fascism and one part communism. Find out why this lethal combination will only lead to catastrophe and if the government still has a chance to stop it before it’s too late!
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June 1st, 2011
The Washington Post
By: Melissa Bell
Missing since Sunday, Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad has been declared dead by his employer Italian news agency Adnkronos. His body was found in southeast Islamabad and reportedly identified by his brother. There were indications that he had been tortured before his death.
His disappearance came just days after Shahzad published an article in Asia Times Online about the alleged links between the Pakistan navy and al-Qaeda. It was the first in a two-part report.
After Libya and Iraq, Pakistan is the deadliest country to be a journalist in, according to statistics compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
April 21st, 2011
The Huffington Post
By: Carla K. Johnson
Consumers searching for unbiased journalism on the acai berry diet clicked their way into a scam, according to federal regulators who have filed lawsuits in six states in an attempt to shut down the alleged Internet tricksters.
The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday it has asked federal courts to stop a wave of fake news sites that entice consumers to buy the unproven weight-loss products.
The sites violate federal law by using the logos of major news outlets to mislead consumers into thinking they’re reading real news reports, according to the court filings. In reality, the sites are advertisements.
Over the past seven days, the FTC filed complaints in federal courts in Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Georgia and Washington. The complaints named 10 website operators and asked the courts to freeze their assets.
The defendants paid more than $10 million to advertise their fake news sites, the FTC said. It’s not clear whether the defendants allegedly running the sites are connected, although content on the sites is similar or the same, said FTC attorney Steven Wernikoff in Chicago.
“We’re still trying to figure that out,” Wernikoff told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “There was some copying of content going on. Regardless of the genesis of the content, the operators are still responsible for the deception on their sites.”
Courts granted temporary restraining orders in some of the cases and many of the websites have been taken down.
One typical lawsuit alleges that Tanner Garrett Vaughn of Mill Creek, Wash., claimed on a website called BreakingNewsAt6.com that a reporter tested an acai berry product and lost 25 pounds in four weeks without dieting or exercise. The FTC claims no real reporter tested the products.
Vaughn is cooperating with the FTC and the website is no longer operating, said Vaughn’s Washington, D.C.-based attorney James A. Kaminski.
“It’s our position that the defendant has done no wrong,” Kaminski said.
The Illinois attorney general’s office filed a separate lawsuit against Ishmael Lopez Jr. of Sauk Village. The office alleges Lopez used a fake news site to promote acai weight-loss products. A phone listing for Lopez could not be found.
According to court filings, the scam worked like this:
A consumer types “acai” into Google or another search engine. An ad pops up that says, “Health Reporter Discovers The Shocking Truth.” Clicking on that link leads the consumer to a fake news site featuring a first-person story about a fake reporter’s positive experience with the diet products. One more click and the consumer lands on an ad offering a “free trial” of an acai berry supplement.
The FTC received multiple complaints from consumers who paid from $70 to $100 for weight-loss products after having been duped by the fake news sites.
Acai, a popular beverage flavor, is a dark purple fruit from a palm found in Central and South America. Marketers sell a diet supplement purported to contain acai, often selling it with a separate “colon cleanser” product.
Last year, the FTC filed a separate lawsuit against a Phoenix-based company for using fake celebrity endorsements for acai berry products. In that case, still under way, Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray filed statements with the court denying they’d ever endorsed the products.
December 8th, 2010
By: Julian Assange
WIKILEAKS deserves protection, not threats and attacks.
IN 1958 a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide’s The News, wrote: “In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win.”
His observation perhaps reflected his father Keith Murdoch’s expose that Australian troops were being needlessly sacrificed by incompetent British commanders on the shores of Gallipoli. The British tried to shut him up but Keith Murdoch would not be silenced and his efforts led to the termination of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.
Nearly a century later, WikiLeaks is also fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public.
I grew up in a Queensland country town where people spoke their minds bluntly. They distrusted big government as something that could be corrupted if not watched carefully. The dark days of corruption in the Queensland government before the Fitzgerald inquiry are testimony to what happens when the politicians gag the media from reporting the truth.
These things have stayed with me. WikiLeaks was created around these core values. The idea, conceived in Australia, was to use internet technologies in new ways to report the truth.
WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?
Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.
People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it.
If you have read any of the Afghan or Iraq war logs, any of the US embassy cables or any of the stories about the things WikiLeaks has reported, consider how important it is for all media to be able to report these things freely.
WikiLeaks is not the only publisher of the US embassy cables. Other media outlets, including Britain’s The Guardian, The New York Times, El Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany have published the same redacted cables.
Yet it is WikiLeaks, as the co-ordinator of these other groups, that has copped the most vicious attacks and accusations from the US government and its acolytes. I have been accused of treason, even though I am an Australian, not a US, citizen. There have been dozens of serious calls in the US for me to be “taken out” by US special forces. Sarah Palin says I should be “hunted down like Osama bin Laden”, a Republican bill sits before the US Senate seeking to have me declared a “transnational threat” and disposed of accordingly. An adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister’s office has called on national television for me to be assassinated. An American blogger has called for my 20-year-old son, here in Australia, to be kidnapped and harmed for no other reason than to get at me.
And Australians should observe with no pride the disgraceful pandering to these sentiments by Julia Gillard and her government. The powers of the Australian government appear to be fully at the disposal of the US as to whether to cancel my Australian passport, or to spy on or harass WikiLeaks supporters. The Australian Attorney-General is doing everything he can to help a US investigation clearly directed at framing Australian citizens and shipping them to the US.
Prime Minister Gillard and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have not had a word of criticism for the other media organisations. That is because The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel are old and large, while WikiLeaks is as yet young and small.
We are the underdogs. The Gillard government is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn’t want the truth revealed, including information about its own diplomatic and political dealings.
Has there been any response from the Australian government to the numerous public threats of violence against me and other WikiLeaks personnel? One might have thought an Australian prime minister would be defending her citizens against such things, but there have only been wholly unsubstantiated claims of illegality. The Prime Minister and especially the Attorney-General are meant to carry out their duties with dignity and above the fray. Rest assured, these two mean to save their own skins. They will not.
Every time WikiLeaks publishes the truth about abuses committed by US agencies, Australian politicians chant a provably false chorus with the State Department: “You’ll risk lives! National security! You’ll endanger troops!” Then they say there is nothing of importance in what WikiLeaks publishes. It can’t be both. Which is it?
It is neither. WikiLeaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time we have changed whole governments, but not a single person, as far as anyone is aware, has been harmed. But the US, with Australian government connivance, has killed thousands in the past few months alone.
US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates admitted in a letter to the US congress that no sensitive intelligence sources or methods had been compromised by the Afghan war logs disclosure. The Pentagon stated there was no evidence the WikiLeaks reports had led to anyone being harmed in Afghanistan. NATO in Kabul told CNN it couldn’t find a single person who needed protecting. The Australian Department of Defence said the same. No Australian troops or sources have been hurt by anything we have published.
But our publications have been far from unimportant. The US diplomatic cables reveal some startling facts:
► The US asked its diplomats to steal personal human material and information from UN officials and human rights groups, including DNA, fingerprints, iris scans, credit card numbers, internet passwords and ID photos, in violation of international treaties. Presumably Australian UN diplomats may be targeted, too.
► King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia asked the US to attack Iran.
► Officials in Jordan and Bahrain want Iran’s nuclear program stopped by any means available.
► Britain’s Iraq inquiry was fixed to protect “US interests”.
► Sweden is a covert member of NATO and US intelligence sharing is kept from parliament.
► The US is playing hardball to get other countries to take freed detainees from Guantanamo Bay. Barack Obama agreed to meet the Slovenian President only if Slovenia took a prisoner. Our Pacific neighbour Kiribati was offered millions of dollars to accept detainees.
In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US Supreme Court said “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government”. The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.
September 7, 2010
Las Vegas Sun
by Steve Green
The Righthaven lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas at first glance seem pretty simple: They show bloggers, nonprofits and generally small-time websites around North America for years have been cutting and pasting entire Las Vegas Review-Journal stories on to their websites without authorization.
That seems like obvious copyright infringement. But, as defendants with and without attorneys fight back in some of the cases, Righthaven’s claims don’t appear to be so cut and dried.
The defense attorneys and some defendants without attorneys are making complex legal arguments about whether the Nevada court has jurisdiction over the out-of-state defendants, whether Righthaven itself has standing to sue and whether Righthaven failed to follow the law in filing no-warning lawsuits rather than first sending requests or takedown orders to the infringing websites.
“What makes this action frivolous is the baseless allegations pertaining to the existence of personal jurisdiction over me, when it should have been crystal clear to Righthaven that I am not amenable to suit in Nevada. The complaint is replete with false averments in an attempt to mislead the court, which is a blatant abuse of process,” said Dean Mostofi, who was sued after an R-J story about a lawyer being reprimanded allegedly was posted on his website deanmostofi.com.
“To fight this frivolous lawsuit I have filed, pro se (without an attorney), a well-researched motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, and I want to encourage all out-of-state defendants to file similar motions and to force Righthaven to litigate these actions in the proper venues,’’ said Mostofi, of Potomac, Md.
Righthaven, however, fills its lawsuits with paragraph after paragraph hoping to establish jurisdiction by showing the defendant websites aimed to reach Nevada residents — sometimes by merely posting a story of interest to Nevadans.
Complicating the issue is that some website owners are denying liability, saying the R-J stories were posted — without their knowledge or authorization — by message board users.
Most of the infringing stories credit the R-J for the information. When the infringement doesn’t credit the R-J, the posting amounts to plagiarism, one of the most serious offenses in the profession of journalism. Those cases, though, probably don’t qualify for extra damages and the lack of credit to the R-J could have been caused by negligence or ignorance rather than ill will, media attorney Marc Randazza said.
Some of the defendants are arguing that Righthaven lacks standing to sue them because Righthaven didn’t own the copyrights at the time of the initial infringement.
Righthaven’s procedure has been to “troll” or find an infringement of an R-J copyright to a specific story. It then buys the copyright for that story from the R-J’s owner, Stephens Media LLC, and then sues the infringer — all the while continuing to troll for additional violations.
At least five websites, for instance, had been sued through July 30 for posting the same four paragraphs of a six-paragraph blog by R-J Publisher Sherman Frederick about a Transportation Security Administration watch list of peeved travelers.
Buying the copyright is important for Righthaven because that gives it the authority to seek statutory damages. The assignment of the copyright covers past infringements, Righthaven says.
None of the contested Righthaven cases has advanced to the point where a trial has been scheduled. Judges through July 30 had not yet ruled on the motions for dismissal or the other legal arguments defendants are making.
Attorneys at the Las Vegas office of the law firm of Lewis and Roca, which has one of the biggest intellectual property practices in town, are contesting the legitimacy of at least two of Righthaven’s lawsuits.
In one lawsuit, involving the website MajorWager.com, they said in court papers: “While this case masquerades as a legitimate copyright dispute, in reality, it is arguably frivolous and nothing more than a thinly disguised shakedown.”
“Plaintiff Righthaven LLC knows that the costs of defending this action will far outweigh the value of this case, and is seeking to extract a settlement under the threat of protracted litigation and expense,” their filing said. “Neither the federal courts nor the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were established for this purpose.”
MajorWager is an Ottawa, Canada, website that in the past has included links to stories involving sports and gambling from numerous sources including the Las Vegas Sun and the Review-Journal.
In responding to the suit, MajorWager CEO Russ Hawkins said in a court declaration that a user of the Internet site, “Clevfan,” in Montreal, posted the R-J articles named in the lawsuit to the discussion forums section of MajorWager’s website.
In another case involving the website emtcity.com, serving the paramedic and emergency medical technician community, the Lewis and Roca attorneys wrote: “This case is a frivolous and self-aggrandizing action that seeks enrichment for the plaintiff by abusing and subverting the legal process.”
“Plaintiff Righthaven LLC knows that the costs of defending this action will far outweigh the value of this case, and is seeking to extract a settlement under the threat of protracted litigation and expense. The purported amount of actual damages, if any, is de minimis (minimal) compared to the filing costs and their own in-house legal fees that they have heaped onto this matter in an effort to derive a greater recovery through settlement or judgment. (The defendant) asserts that this is an effort to bully him into submission and payment,” the attorneys wrote.
Another case is being defended by attorney Allen Lichtenstein, who has had plenty of experience working on ACLU First Amendment lawsuits.
In that case, a website about the potential harmful effects of wind energy posted a story from Northern Nevada’s Ely Times newspaper — a story Righthaven later obtained the copyright for. The R-J and the Ely Times are both owned by Stephens Media LLC.
Righthaven also complained the website had posted stories from Stephens Media’s Daily World newspaper in Aberdeen, Wash., along with some 75 stories from various sources in Nevada since 2006, including several from the Review-Journal.
The operator of the nonprofit website, www.windaction.org, Lisa Linowes, publishes it from her home in New Hampshire, with her husband providing technical support. Lisa Linowes was obviously surprised to be sued by Righthaven.
“At the time of the posting of the article, I did not believe that infringed on anyone’s copyright. One reason for not believing that the posting of the article would infringe on anyone’s copyright is that, over the past five years, we have posted somewhere between 28,000 and 29,000 articles on the passive, noncommercial website and we have never been subject to any lawsuit for copyright infringement for any of those articles until now,” Lisa Linowes said in court papers. “Nor am I aware of any similar passive noncommercial website that has been sued for copyright infringement merely for posting news articles from around the United States and the rest of the world, concerning a matter of public policy and interest.”
Lichtenstein noted in court papers the nonprofit website and its owner aren’t a financial threat to Stephens Media.
“Defendants are not in the business of producing a local newspaper in Ely. They are not in competition with the Ely Times, and certainly not in competition with Righthaven LLC, which is a company specifically set up and ‘grubstaked’ by Stephens Media for the sole purpose of bringing this lawsuit and others like it,” Lichtenstein wrote.
“No one can seriously maintain that the limited reach and circulation of the Ely Times was diminished by the appearance of one of its articles on a website that acts as a clearinghouse for information concerning wind energy. If anything, the posting might have helped rather than hurt the Ely Times by exposing the paper to people across the United States and the world who had never heard of that newspaper,” Lichtenstein wrote.
In another case, attorneys with the firms Gordon Silver in Las Vegas and Freund & Brackey in Beverly Hills, Calif., are defending a suit involving the Louisville, Ky.-based website www.southerngaming.com, which serves gamblers in the Southern United States.
They also accused Righthaven of running a shakedown operation.
Righthaven’s business model is to acquire copyrights and then troll around the Internet to “identify and sue anyone posting the articles,” the Southern Gaming attorneys complained.
“Righthaven has advanced upwards of 50 separate lawsuits based wholly on this ill-conceived scheme, which is nothing more than a massive shakedown focusing not on a legitimate effort to protect copyrights but rather to extract settlements from (out of state) defendants faced with the prospect of defending an action outside their homes states,” these attorneys wrote.
The attorneys asked the court to dismiss “this frivolous action” and “put an end to at least one of Righthaven’s dubious lawsuits, ostensibly rooted in intellectual property law but more clearly founded on an abuse of that very federal law.”
Righthaven and its CEO and lead attorney, Steven Gibson, deny the lawsuits are frivolous. Gibson has done work for the R-J for years and with his law firm Gibson Lowry Burris LLP last year represented the R-J in trademark litigation unrelated to the current copyright lawsuits.
Gibson said Righthaven is operating as a successful and growing business that through late July had settled or resolved about 30 of the lawsuits, and it will keep filing suits because “new infringements occur every day.”
Some of the Righthaven defendants have told the Sun their only option is to settle, because that would cost less than to litigate — even if they win.
Crete, Ill.-based Odds on Racing offered to settle a Righthaven lawsuit for $5,000, including costs and attorneys’ fees, an offer accepted by Righthaven.
“That is not insignificant,” Gibson said.
Gibson didn’t disclose whether the $5,000 is within the usual range of settlements being negotiated by Righthaven. The only other publicly disclosed settlement of a Righthaven lawsuit involved the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which agreed to pay $2,185.
Gibson has heard the criticism about Righthaven suing bloggers with apparently innocent motives like Allegra Wong in Boston. When it comes time to assessing damages, he said, Righthaven may show some leniency in her case.
And as for suing the R-J’s sources, like gaming industry Publisher Anthony Curtis, he said that as Righthaven refines its procedures, it may be less likely they’ll be sued.
“But I’m not giving them a blanket waiver,” Gibson said.
Gibson also disputes contentions by critics that instead of suing website operators, the R-J and Righthaven should be requesting they take down the infringing material. That would require contacting thousands of people, which wouldn’t be effective, he said.
Many of the Righthaven defendants have said that a simple phone call or e-mail from the R-J would have been all that was necessary for them to removing the infringing material. But Righthaven has noted in court papers that those same defendants didn’t bother to contact the R-J for advance permission to post the stories at issue.
Gibson and other copyright attorneys say there is a misconception that in every case, under the federal Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), Righthaven is required to send a “DMCA takedown” order to website operators.
That only applies in specific circumstances where the website operator has complied with provisions in the DMCA, including the posting of information on where the DMCA notices are to be sent.
Righthaven watchers also wondered this summer if a major copyright ruling involving the DMCA would affect the Righthaven cases.
The ruling came in a lawsuit pitting entertainment giant Viacom — owner of MTV, Paramount Pictures and other brands — against Google’s YouTube subsidiary. A federal judge threw out Viacom’s $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit claiming YouTube wasn’t doing enough to discourage illegal posting of Viacom material on YouTube.
U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton found the DMCA doesn’t require YouTube to check people’s material before it’s posted and that YouTube had been responsive to requests from Viacom that it remove infringing content from the site.
“I’m in the same position as Google v. Viacom. I’m a source provider and protected under the law. I did not post the article. I did not commission it. I did not direct anyone to produce it,” said Larry Johnson, who was sued by Righthaven after an R-J story about Nevada’s U.S. Senate race appeared on Johnson’s noquarterusa.net website.
But Ryan Gile, an intellectual property attorney at the Las Vegas law firm Weide & Miller, said the YouTube ruling may be of little assistance to some defendants, particularly small website operators that can’t afford to litigate against Righthaven.
“For those websites where the R-J articles were posted by third parties, the DMCA was always going to be their best defense against copyright infringement liability. But in order to successfully invoke the DMCA safe harbor, the defendant website may still have to endure months of discovery by Righthaven to show that the website meets the specific criteria for protection under the DMCA. If the defendant is a corporate entity and must hire a lawyer to represent it in court or if the defendant is an out-of-state individual and must hire a local lawyer to represent them in court, then just proving that you are completely immune from any liability is still a large financial burden that most little guys simply can’t afford,” Gile said.
Gibson, in the meantime, says critics are off the mark when they suggest Righthaven’s typical $75,000 statutory damage claim is excessive given the apparently minor infringements in some of the cases. Statutory damages are those in which the plaintiff doesn’t have to show economic loss and they serve as a deterrent to infringement, he said.
And while Righthaven typically asks in its lawsuits that the infringing Web site’s domain name be transferred to Righthaven, Gibson said Righthaven hasn’t actually pursued that legal option. But it’s something available to deter infringements, he said.
Despite the protests of critics who want a more freewheeling, largely unregulated Internet, it’s well established that copyright and trademark law apply to the Internet.
One of the early cases to establish this, ironically, involved one of the current Righthaven defendants, the conservative news-sharing site www.freerepublic.com in Fresno, Calif.
Free Republic was sued for copyright infringement in the 1990s by the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post in a case that was closely watched because, at the time, it wasn’t clear if copyright law applied to the nascent Internet sphere.
In 1999, a federal judge sided squarely with the newspapers, finding freerepublic.com had no “fair use” exemption to post thousands of the newspapers’ stories online so readers could comment on them.
On July 20, the freerepublic.com message board was filled with “here we go again” comments after users of the site learned it had been sued again, this time by Righthaven. In the new Righthaven case, the stories weren’t posted directly by freerepublic, but by users on its message boards.
Around the country, copyright attorneys and some media players are questioning the Righthaven troll-and-sue strategy, and some have likened it to controversial campaigns by the music and movie industries to sue illegal downloaders.
John Paton, CEO of the Journal Register Co. newspaper chain and Editor & Publisher magazine’s publisher of the year in 2009, was among those surprised to learn of Righthaven’s lawsuit campaign.
“Such a bad idea for newspapers. I’m speechless,” Paton said on a Twitter post.
His reaction wasn’t surprising. Instead of suing bloggers, Journal Register has embraced them, announcing initiatives this year to provide local bloggers with tools and training to grow news coverage — part of his company’s push to grow revenue through local digital partnerships in its markets in the Northeast.
Ron Coleman, a lawyer in New York, noted on his Likelihood Of Confusion blog that there’s a key difference between lawsuits over movie and music downloading and suits over copying and pasting newspaper stories: People generally are willing to pay for music and movies, but not news.
“There’s barely any market for fresh news at all — i.e., people really don’t expect or want to pay for it, and they don’t,” he wrote. “That’s not because they can steal it, but because there are so many free or very low cost substitutes for mainstream media available today. And that’s going to be even more true for the mainly warmed over or in some cases really old newspaper stories that seem to be the subject of this (Righthaven) copyright ‘enforcement’ sweep.”
Coleman also took a swipe at Gibson’s business plan.
“When an infringing blogger gets served with a summons and complaint, he’s going to have to pay to make it go away, and the only thing Gibson’s going to want to know is how much-a-you-got. What kind of business plan is that?” Coleman asked.
Another attorney suggested an alternative to the Righthaven and similar “copyright troll” tactics. Such cases could be handled through an arbitration or administrative process much the same way employment discrimination complaints must be filed before they turn into lawsuits, Philadelphia attorney Maxwell Kennerly wrote on his blog.
Kennerly pointed to a typical Righthaven case, satirically calling it “a recent suit against those scourges of American society, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).”
In that case, an R-J story about safety legislation allegedly was posted to the website of a Florida chapter of the ASSE.
Kennerly said he believes the allegations, if true, would constitute copyright infringement. But he questions the need make a federal lawsuit out of them.
“Just taking that ASSE case as an example, all the (proposed) agency would really need, other than the complaint filed, is an answer from the defendant admitting or denying the material facts about the extent and nature of republication,” Kennerly wrote. “And that would be it; the investigator or arbitrator could then look at those documents, the core of which would be fewer than 20 pages, and start discussing with the parties a reasonable settlement. That would obviate the need to bring on attorneys for hundreds of dollars an hour, and would keep these small potatoes matters from clogging our federal courts.”
Sam Bayard, at Harvard’s Citizen Media Law Project, said a ruling in another media copyright case this summer may serve to limit damages against copyright infringers with innocent intentions.
In a closely-watched case in Boston, a federal judge slashed by 90 percent the $675,000 in damages a jury awarded record companies against a student who had illegally downloaded and shared 30 songs.
The $67,500 Joel Tenenbaum has to pay is still a hefty amount for violating record labels’ copyrights. But in drastically reducing the damages, U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner found: “This [$675,000] award is far greater than necessary to serve the government’s legitimate interests in compensating copyright owners and deterring infringement.”
Gertner wrote that the Constitution’s Due Process Clause has served to protect large corporations from “grossly excessive punitive awards” but also applies to “ordinary people like Joel Tenenbaum.”
As the lawsuits proceed or are settled, it’s clear Righthaven’s lawsuit campaign has already had some effect.
At least three people in Las Vegas have told the Sun that in response to • Righthaven’s initiative, they have removed R-J stories from their websites because they have been sued or were afraid of being sued.
• An anti-Righthaven Facebook page has been created, criticizing the initiative and serving as a resource for those who have been sued.
• Some websites have vowed to stop sending traffic to the R-J. Officials at a website called abovetopsecret.com said that after they were sued, they would immediately stop allowing users to post R-J stories and links. “It’s ludicrous. We’ll never settle with them,” Mark Allin, a partner at the company, said after his company was sued.
• A website called www.thearmedcitizen.com shut down after its operators in Idaho were sued. The owners said they didn’t want to worry about any more litigation over the noncommercial site covering the use of weapons in self-defense.
• Critics say R-J reporters are now in a conflict of interest situation because their paper in many cases is suing their sources including the state Democratic Party, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, real estate brokerages and agents and Anthony Curtis, a gaming industry observer and publisher.
“How are the Review-Journal’s reporters supposed to now fairly cover the groups this LLC has sued?” asked a post on the anti-Review Journal website www.lvjournalreview.com.
July 22, 2010
The Wall Street Journal
By: Fred Barnes
When I’m talking to people from outside Washington, one question inevitably comes up: Why is the media so liberal? The question often reflects a suspicion that members of the press get together and decide on a story line that favors liberals and Democrats and denigrates conservatives and Republicans.
My response has usually been to say, yes, there’s liberal bias in the media, but there’s no conspiracy. The liberal tilt is an accident of nature. The media disproportionately attracts people from a liberal arts background who tend, quite innocently, to be politically liberal. If they came from West Point or engineering school, this wouldn’t be the case.
Now, after learning I’d been targeted for a smear attack by a member of an online clique of liberal journalists, I’m inclined to amend my response. Not to say there’s a media conspiracy, but at least to note that hundreds of journalists have gotten together, on an online listserv called JournoList, to promote liberalism and liberal politicians at the expense of traditional journalism.
My guess is that this and other revelations about JournoList will deepen the distrust of the national press. True, participants in the online clubhouse appear to hail chiefly from the media’s self-identified left wing. But its founder, Ezra Klein, is a prominent writer for the Washington Post. Mr. Klein shut down JournoList last month—a wise decision.
It’s thanks to Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller website that we know something about JournoList, though the emails among the liberal journalists were meant to be private. (Mr. Carlson hasn’t revealed how he obtained the emails.) In June, the Daily Caller disclosed a series of JournoList musings by David Weigel, then a Washington Post blogger assigned to cover conservatives. His emails showed he loathes conservatives, and he was subsequently fired.
This week, Mr. Carlson produced a series of JournoList emails from April 2008, when Barack Obama’s presidential bid was in serious jeopardy. Videos of the antiwhite, anti-American sermons of his Chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, had surfaced, first on ABC and then other networks.
JournoList contributors discussed strategies to aid Mr. Obama by deflecting the controversy. They went public with a letter criticizing an ABC interview of Mr. Obama that dwelled on his association with Mr. Wright. Then, Spencer Ackerman of The Washington Independent proposed attacking Mr. Obama’s critics as racists. He wrote:
“If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them—Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares—and call them racists. . . . This makes them ‘sputter’ with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.”
No one on JournoList endorsed the Ackerman plan. But rather than object on ethical grounds, they voiced concern that the strategy would fail or possibly backfire.
Among journalists in general, there’s always been a herd instinct. Eugene McCarthy, the Minnesota senator and Democratic presidential candidate, once described political writers as birds on a telephone wire. When one bird flew to the wire across the street, they all did. In Mr. Ackerman’s case, I’m glad none of the birds joined him across the street.
We’ve often seen media groupthink in campaigns. In 1980, most of the media decided that President Jimmy Carter was being mean-spirited in his re-election effort with his harsh denunciations of Ronald Reagan, his Republican opponent. The media turned the meanness issue into major story. In 1992, journalists treated the economy as if it were dead in the water, though a recovery from a mild recession had begun early the previous year. I could go on.
I think JournoList is—or was—fundamentally different, and not simply because one of its members proposed to make palpably false accusations. As best I can tell, those involved in JournoList considered themselves part of a team. And their goal was to make sure the team won. In 2008, this was Mr. Obama’s team. More recently, the goal seems to have been to defeat the conservative team.
Until JournoList came along, liberal journalists were rarely part of a team. Neither are conservative journalists today, so far as I know. If there’s a team, no one has asked me to join. As a conservative, I normally write more favorably about Republicans than Democrats and I routinely treat conservative ideas as superior to liberal ones. But I’ve never been part of a discussion with conservative writers about how we could most help the Republican or the conservative team.
My experience with other conservative journalists is that they are loners. One of the most famous conservative columnists of the past half-century, the late Robert Novak, is a good example. I knew him well for 35 years. He didn’t tell me what stories he was working on nor ask what I was planning to write. He never mentioned how we might promote Republicans or aid the conservative cause, nor did I.
What was particularly pathetic about the scheme to smear Mr. Obama’s critics was labeling them as racists. The accusation has been made so frequently in recent years, without evidence to back it up, that it has little effect. It’s now the last refuge of liberal scoundrels.
The first call I got after the Daily Caller unearthed the emails involving me was from Karl Rove. He said he wanted to talk to his “fellow racist.” We laughed about this. But the whole episode was also sad. I didn’t sputter at the thought of being called a racist. But it was sad to see what journalism, or at least a segment of it, had come to.