April 6, 2012
New York Times
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
“Is there is ever a time when the government should saving money, it’s now. We should all be outraged at this.” –KTRN
When a vast but little-known government agency spent $822,000 in taxpayer money to fly 300 bureaucrats to a luxurious spa and casino outside Las Vegas for a conference in October 2010, its leaders had a goal: to make it “over the top,” according to a government report that has set Washington abuzz.
But it was news of the conference entertainment — a clown and a mind reader — that prompted snickering on Tuesday across this city, which always savors a scandal. And with the snickering, there was a question: If they had a clairvoyant, how come nobody saw the backlash coming?
“Arrogance, immaturity, entitlement,” said Kenneth Donohue, who spent nearly a decade investigating cases of fraud and abuse as inspector general of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Plenty of people in Washington (and Las Vegas) were saying much the same on Tuesday, among them Representative John L. Mica, Republican of Florida, and Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, both of whom lead committees that have been investigating the agency in question, the General Services Administration.
The G.S.A., as it is known, is essentially the government’s personal shopper for big-ticket items, like buying and leasing buildings and cars.
Heads rolled there on Monday — the top official, Martha Johnson, fired her top two deputies, and then resigned in disgrace — hours before the agency’s inspector general released a blandly titled “Final Management Deficiency Report,” whose contents were anything but bland about the conference at the M Resort Spa Casino. Its details — $58,808 for “audio visual services;” a “networking reception” where the fare included “Petit Beef Wellington” and 1,000 sushi rolls at $7 apiece; $147,000 for airfare and lodging; a $75,000 “bicycle building project” designed as a “team-building exercise” — were enough to prompt people in Las Vegas to wish, as the old saw goes, that what happened there would have stayed there.
February 20, 2012
By Jonathan Benson
“It’s not funny when someone has a heart attack. But c’mon. What did this guy expect? He ate the ‘triple bypass burger’ from the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas. Can we say ignoramus?” –KTRN
A 6,000 calorie stack of three beef patties, three slices of processed American cheese, and 12 strips of bacon — oh, and a couple veggies — known as the “Triple Bypass Burger” recently lived up to its name at the Las Vegas restaurant “Heart Attack Grill” where it is served. Complete with “Flatline Fries” and a large soft drink, the facetious meal became a living embodiment of diet-induced illness when a customer suffered cardiac arrest while consuming the meal, upon which he was wheeled away on a stretcher and taken to the emergency room.
The UK’s Daily Mail reports that, because of the irony of the situation, many of the other customers and onlookers present at the time of the incident believed it to be some kind of publicity stunt. But the restaurant’s owner, Jon Basso, a former nutritionist, insists the heart attack was very real, and that as “morbid” as the company’s sense of humor is, it would never “pull a stunt like that.”
“The gentleman could barely talk. He was sweating, suffering,” Basso is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. “I actually felt horrible for him because the tourists were taking photos of him as if it were some type of stunt.”
One onlooker actually captured video footage of the incident as it occurred, which he later uploaded to YouTube. You can view that video footage here:
January 31, 2012
The New York Times
By MIKE McINTIRE and MICHAEL LUO
“Here’s a lengthy article than explains where some of Newt’s money is coming from.” –KTRN
The trip to Jordan by a group of United States congressmen was supposed to be a chance for them to meet the newly crowned King Abdullah II. But their tour guide had a more complicated agenda.
The guide was Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate who helped underwrite trips to the Middle East to win support for Israel in Congress. On this occasion in 1999, as the lawmakers enjoyed a reception at the Royal Palace in Amman, Mr. Adelson and an aide retreated to a private room with the king.
There, the king listened politely as Mr. Adelson sat on a sofa and paged through his proposal for a gambling resort on the Jordan-Israel border to be called the Red Sea Kingdom.
“This was shortly after his father, King Hussein, died, and he was grateful to me,” Mr. Adelson explained later in court testimony, recalling that he had lent his plane when the ailing monarch sought treatment in the United States. “So they remembered.”
The proposal never went anywhere — Mr. Adelson later said he had feared that a Jewish-owned casino on Arab land “would have been blown to smithereens.” But his impromptu pitch to the Jordanian king highlights the boldness, if not audacity, that has propelled Mr. Adelson into the ranks of the world’s richest men and transformed him into a powerful behind-the-scenes player in American and international politics.
Those qualities may also help explain why Mr. Adelson, 78, has decided to throw his wealth behind what had once seemed to be the unlikely presidential aspirations of Newt Gingrich. Now, in no small measure because of Mr. Adelson’s deep pockets, Mr. Gingrich is locked in a struggle with Mitt Romney heading into Florida’s Republican primary on Tuesday.
Today, special guest hosts, Wendy Snyder and Bill Leff, reveal how eagles are getting payback for not receiving royalties from the US Postal Service and why the cowardly lion was passed up to play the roll of Drew Peterson. Plus, get the latest developments in Weinergate!
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Today, Kevin reveals exactly why he does this radio show and why he will never give up the fight! Plus, find out what the banks are doing this time to take your hard-earned money from you!
Harry Reid’s Name Already Filled In On Ballots
Take Trudeau on the Go! Click here to download this show to your iPod, mp3 player, or PC through iTunes!
September 20, 2010
The NewYork Times
By Jakie Calmes
President Obama’s political advisers, looking for ways to help Democrats and alter the course of the midterm elections in the final weeks, are considering a range of ideas, including national advertisements, to cast the Republican Party as all but taken over by Tea Party extremists, people involved in the discussion said.
White House and Congressional Democratic strategists are trying to energize dispirited Democratic voters over the coming six weeks, in hopes of limiting the party’s losses and keeping control of the House and Senate. The strategists see openings to exploit after a string of Tea Party successes split Republicans in a number of states, culminating last week with developments that scrambled Senate races in Delaware and Alaska.
“We need to get out the message that it’s now really dangerous to re-empower the Republican Party,” said one Democratic strategist who has spoken with White House advisers but requested anonymity to discuss private strategy talks.
Democrats are divided. The party’s House and Senate campaign committees are resistant, not wanting to do anything that smacks of nationalizing the midterm elections when high unemployment and the drop in Mr. Obama’s popularity have made the climate so hostile to Democrats. Endangered Congressional candidates want any available money to go to their localized campaigns.
Late Sunday night, White House advisers denied that a national ad campaign was being planned. “There’s been no discussion of such a thing at the White House” or the Democratic National Committee, said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser.
Proponents say a national ad campaign, most likely on cable television, would complement those individual campaigns and give Democrats a chance to redefine the stakes. The Democratic strategist said voters did not now see much threat to them from a Republican takeover of Congress, even though some Tea Party-backed candidates and other Republicans have taken positions that many voters consider extreme, like shutting down the government to get their way, privatizing Social Security and Medicare and ending unemployment insurance.
So far, Mr. Obama has largely limited his campaigning to fundraisers and small events. That will change soon as he plays a bigger role to rally the flagging faithful, officials said.
To mobilize younger voters who supported him in 2008, Mr. Obama will hold four big campaign-style rallies, the first Sept. 28 at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, with satellite transmission to campuses in other states. The later rallies will be in Ohio, Philadelphia and Las Vegas. He also will send e-mail and record robocalls to spur voters, and conduct a national “town hall” Webcast in October.
“These events are about activating the Obama grass roots to help organizationally in terms of volunteers” for get-out-the-vote efforts, said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. “We’re not going to get all the 2008 Obama voters out. We may not get most of them. But in close races, it can be decisive.”
Mr. Obama will also step up his efforts to draw contrasts between the parties, in particular by pounding away on his call for extending the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, except for “millionaires and billionaires.” Republicans want the tax cuts extended for people of all income levels, not just incomes below $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for families, as the president has proposed.
Republican strategists remain confident of the party’s prospects for big gains in November, even as they acknowledge that they are unlikely to win the Senate race in Delaware after the victory in the Republican primary there of Christine O’Donnell, a Tea Party-backed candidate with a long record of controversial statements, over Representative Michael N. Castle, a moderate and popular former two-term governor.
Also last week, Alaska’s Senate race was upended when Senator Lisa Murkowski, who lost the Republican nomination to a Tea Party adherent, Joe Miller, mounted a write-in candidacy against him, saying, “Alaska is not fair game for outside extremists.”
“While we may have a handful of nominees out of the mainstream, the American people have come to the conclusion this administration and this Congress are out of the mainstream,” said John Weaver, a Republican consultant.
In 1994, Democrats were in power and similarly took hope when Republican primaries yielded candidates deemed too far right for the general election. Yet the wave against Democrats that year was strong enough to carry those newcomers into office and put Republicans in control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.
Except for Ms. O’Donnell in Delaware, Republican nominees that Democrats like to showcase as extremists — including in Senate races in Nevada, Colorado, Kentucky and even blue-state Connecticut — are even with their Democratic rivals in polls or ahead.
And even as the White House maps the final campaign push, advisers are distracted by the expected exit of the chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, to run for mayor of Chicago. Mr. Emanuel, who as a member of Congress helped engineer the Democratic takeover of the House in 2006, is among his party’s foremost strategists when it comes to Congressional elections.
Peter M. Rouse, one of Mr. Obama’s closest advisers, has assumed additional responsibilities. But Mr. Rouse, who is intensely private, does not want the high-profile job of chief of staff; instead he is helping Mr. Obama vet names. Leading candidates are said to be Thomas E. Donilon, the deputy national security adviser, and Robert Bauer, the White House counsel.
On top of the personnel distractions at the White House, the strategy discussions with Congressional Democrats come after 21 months of legislative and political battles that have strained relations between the two camps.
Democrats on Capitol Hill say that Obama aides, including Mr. Axelrod, and Jim Messina, the deputy chief of staff, do not consult with them enough and are more concerned with positioning Mr. Obama for his 2012 reelection race than with re-electing Democrats now.
At the Democratic National Committee, aides already have started work on a database to link the most controversial statements of the Tea Party-backed candidates to possible Republican presidential aspirants.
The database will point out, for example, that Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney are supporting the Republican candidate for Senate in Nevada, Sharron Angle, who once said that victims of rape should make “what was really a lemon situation into lemonade,” and Ms. O’Donnell, who has said that having women in the service academies “cripples the readiness of our defense.”
The tactic of linking potential Republican rivals to such statements was already in evidence last week. After Ms. O’Donnell’s victory, a party spokesman told reporters, “The fact that Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin would put their name behind a candidate that believes women who serve our country ‘cripple the readiness of our defense’ make them unfit to be commander-in-chief.”
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 26, 2010
By Bridget Johnson
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), addressing a convention of liberal bloggers and activists Saturday evening, implored the left to fight to stay in power in the midterm elections.
“If Republicans take back Congress they’ll implement a truly dangerous agenda,” Franken told the Netroots Nation gathering in Las Vegas. “Everything is on the table from repealing healthcare reform to privatizing Social Security.”
Franken singled out two Republican Senate nominees: Rand Paul in Kentucky, for his questioning of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and Sharron Angle in Nevada, “who can’t stop bringing up the prospect of armed revolt.”
Franken warned the liberals that Joe Barton, who apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward in an oil spill hearing, would become chairman of the Energy committee should Republicans take back control of the House, and said “Darrell Issa is promising to double his staff and embark on a witch-hunt in the hopes of bringing down the Obama administration.” Being in the majority, Democrats currently have twice as many staff as Republicans on the Oversight Committee.
Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform panel, responded to Franken’s charges in a late-night e-mail statement.
“Obviously, Senator Franken is reading from the same misguided playbook that Speaker Pelosi and shares her belief that a Democratic Congress should give this administration immunity from legitimate questions and appropriate accountability,” Issa said. “Their statements are indicative of the desperate state their Majority is in and if the best case they can make is to caution the American people against the dangers of conducting legitimate and vigorous oversight, they is welcome to make that case.
“The fact of the matter is oversight should be done vigorously and effectively — even if it raises uncomfortable questions for the Obama White House and Democratic congressional leaders.”
Franken said he understood frustration among the left as not all agenda items were being pushed with the vigor they’d like, but told the activists “no matter how frustrated you are, you can’t check out now.”
“We have seen what happens when Republicans take control of Congress with a Democratic president and it ain’t pretty,” the senator said.
Franken said the country was “teetering on the brink of a double-dip recession” and criticized Republicans for eschewing the idea of another stimulus package. “They hide behind big talk about deficits as if deficits suddenly appeared at noon on Jan. 20, 2009,” he said.
March 17, 2010
By: Jacqui Goddard
For many, a night out at the movies would not be complete without the sound of popcorn and chocolate wrappers from the stalls. One of the most powerful studio bosses in Hollywood, however, would like to see cinemas selling healthier snacks.
Michael Lynton, chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures, says that audiences would be better off nibbling on granola bars, fruit salad, yogurt and vegetable crudités with dips. “I can almost imagine the Romans eating popcorn and drinking Coke at the Colosseum 2,000 years ago,” he told a convention of cinema owners in Las Vegas. “But by bringing healthier snacks into your concession stands you would be helping our country meet an urgent public health need.”
The average cinema bucket of buttered popcorn has 76 grams (2.6oz) of fat — the equivalent of six McDonald’s cheeseburgers — and 1,100 calories.
Behind Mr Lynton’s call is an awareness of obesity on both sides of the Atlantic. Last month Tim Smith, the chief executive of the Food Standards Agency in Britain, called for filmgoers to be told how many calories there are in the popcorn, ice cream and fizzy drinks that they buy in cinemas and for them to be available in smaller portions.
However, Mr Lynton admitted that old habits might die hard. “I don’t think giant tubs of spinach or broccoli is a good idea. And nobody wants to eat cauliflower while watching Spider-Man, or drink a 40oz cup of prune juice,” he said.
He did not, he said, intend to “close the window for popcorn, soda and candy” but items such as baked crisps and unbuttered, air-popped popcorn, would enhance the choice. “I’m just talking about adding some healthier items to what you already sell.”
Deirdre Flynn, spokesman for the Popcorn Board, a non-profit organisation funded by US popcorn processors, said: “If you ask most consumers what they consider the number one movie snack, they will tell you it’s popcorn. Popcorn and movies have gone hand in hand since the early 1900s.”
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, started by the former President Clinton, and the American Heart Association to fight childhood obesity offered to advise on nutritious menus.
I support you 100% in everything you do. The FTC and FDA are getting away with far too much. Enough is enough. I am behind you all the way! Thank You Kevin for all that you are doing and GOD SPEED!!
Las Vegas, Nevada