Hawaii web site targeted by Stephens Media-Righthaven law suit

A Hawaii-based travel web site has been hit by a lawsuit brought by Righthaven, a company that has partnered with Stephens Media, owner of the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today, to sue over 100 bloggers across the country for allegedly violating the company’s copyrights by reprinting stories from its newspapers.

Named in the suit are Juergen Thomas Steinmetz and Hawaii Tourism Association Inc., publishers of eTurboNews.

According to a story by reporter Steven Green published in the Las Vegas Sun yesterday (Saturday):

The Righthaven lawsuit says a July 29 Review-Journal story about the History Channel show “Pawn Stars” and an Aug. 30 Review-Journal story about a poll on legalizing marijuana and prostitution were displayed without authorization on the eTurboNews website.

Court records indicate the Review-Journal stories on the website were credited to “lvrj.com” and the Review-Journal reporters who wrote the stories. One story was posted in full; the other seemed to be missing the first paragraph.

As in other recent lawsuits, Righthaven seeks damages of $150,000 and forfeiture of the eTurboNews website.

Thanks to Pat Tummons (Environment Hawaii) for passing along Kona blogger John Powell’s earlier warning about the Stephens Media lawsuits.

Powell wrote:

What Big Island bloggers need to know is that Stephens Media’s Las Vegas Review-Journal has partnered with Righthaven, a legal extortion operation, to file 81 (as of July 20) lawsuits against bloggers or website operators who have reposted part of all of LVRJ articles. No “take-down” or warning letters are sent before the lawsuit is filed. As the attorneys representing one of the people sued by Righthaven put it, “This strongly suggests that these suits were filed, not for the legitimate purpose of enforcing copyrights, but rather, to coerce several settlements as part of a massive cash grab facilitated by judicial process.”

The suit against eTurboNews is the first involving a Hawaii company or web site.

Stephens Media has a long track record of anti-labor practices, and was found to have violated federal labor law by the NLRB during protracted negotiations at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

According to a story last month in the Las Vegas Sun:

Through Wednesday, 100 Righthaven suits had been filed in that court [U.S. District Court in Las Vegas] since March against defendants throughout North America, with Righthaven typically demanding $75,000 in damages and forfeiture of the defendants’ website domain name.

Many bloggers are advising that all links of any kind to Stephens Media newspapers be removed so that no web traffic is generated for them.

Poynter Online took a long look at the issue which is worth reading.

Aaron Stene (The Kona Blog) contacted Mark Hinueber, Vice President/General Counsel of Stephens Media, about the lawsuits.

Aaron quoted the reply:


The suits you have read about typically involve stories that have been “cut and pasted” whole, or nearly whole, from our papers. The appropriate procedure for using West Hawaii Today or Hawaii Tribune-Herald stories is to post the headline of the story and then the first paragraph with a link to the original story. “

If you want to read more, there’s a lot out there, like this assessment by a New York trademark lawyer, and this writeup by one of those being sued.

3 responses to “Hawaii web site targeted by Stephens Media-Righthaven law suit

  1. This is ridiculous. Cut and paste a short meaty portion give credit but don’t link. Then they get less traffic and exposure. I understand the profit taking. But that approach is really stupid in the long run. How many sites have we found by links, “Gee that’s cool I think I will bookmark that site.”

    How about the analogy of a person walking into a break room and seeing the paper and reading a story. Well he may see an ad or two as well and stop at Acme Food Mart on the way home. Success. They won’t get that coverage at all.

    Its like the music thing and the RIAA. They do it because they can. With radio or newspapers you can’t follow it away from the first use. With the internet you can see exactly what is happening. Exact counts in fact.

    And no warnings at all, sounds like something News Corp would do.

  2. Afraid to Reveal Name

    They don’t just sue bloggers. They also sue not-for-profits, including those that have served as primary sources of the stories themselves. In this story, Righthaven sued a crisis prevention center in Las Vegas.


    This is about the lowest of the low. I’ve been scrupulous about not taking more than tiny snippets and always linking back to blogs I run. But now this seems to be no holds barred and I’m frankly afraid to keep posting. I’m going to rip down my blogs, scrub them, and put them back up but never, ever quote another news source. Its also terrifying that they are suing even for situations where commenters are posting snippets of news articles. There’s simply no way to police it. While Safe Harbor would probably protect these bloggers in the end, at what cost? Certainly not one worth it to the blogger.

  3. Thanks, Ian, for posting this story… along with meaningful snipets and relevant links. You provide a great contribution to the public debate.

    There has always been a strained relationship in news operations between the goal of reporting the news and making a profit. I look forward to the day when this phase in the evolution of this relationship is over and the money-grubbers give up.

    It is a sad injustice that corporate news outfits are suing the people who actually give their stories life; generating fear that does nothing but undermine the quality and purpose of the public discussions around the news.

    Shame on them.

    Profit is not the purpose of life; it is definitely not the purpose of public discussion around current events. At best, it’s just one of those ancillary consequences. And — as often happens when the ancillary tries to dominate — the system breaks down. That’s why tail-wagged-dogs don’t live very long.

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