(CN) - A federal judge blasted Righthaven's copyright-collection business model in a ruling that says an Oregon nonprofit was justified through fair use to post an article by the Las Vegas Review Journal.
"[Righthaven's] litigation strategy has a chilling effect on potential fair uses of Righthaven-owned articles, diminishes public access to the facts contained therein, and does nothing to advance the Copyright Act's purpose of promoting artistic creation," U.S. District Judge James Mahan ruled Friday.
Nevada-based Righthaven sues bloggers and websites for copyright infringement if it finds that they have not received permission before posting articles or photographs by publications it oversees. The Las Vegas Review-Journal assigns copyrights to Righthaven for the purpose of filing such lawsuits.
Righthaven, which court records show is currently the plaintiff in approximately 80 open lawsuits in Nevada District Court alone, has come under fire recently from fair-use advocates for its methods.
The company's recent loss involves an article about whether police in the Las Vegas area are targeting minorities. The Las Vegas Review-Journal published the article in June 2010. A few days later, the nonprofit Center for Intercultural Organizing posted the story on its website. Righthaven quickly filed suit against the Oregon-based group for copyright infringement.
In his eight-page order, Judge Mahan ruled that the center's use of the article was informational and meant to educate the public about immigration issues.
Righthaven's interest in the work is "nothing more than litigation-driven," he wrote.
"The court finds that the defendant's use of the copyrighted article in this case constitutes fair use as a matter of law," Mahan wrote.
"The article has been removed from its original context; it is no longer owned by a newspaper; and it has been assigned to a company that uses the copyright exclusively to file infringement lawsuits."
Mahan granted summary judgment to the Center of Intercultural Organizing, finding that Righthaven had failed to show that the center's use of the disputed article had harmed its copyright because, as a company set up only to file lawsuits, Righthaven had no market for the work.
"The court concludes that a reasonable trier of fact could only reach one conclusion as to the nature of the disputed article - it is an informational work, which readily lends itself to a productive use by others and, thus, deserves less protection than a creative work of entertainment," he wrote. "Because Righthaven cannot claim the [Las Vegas Review-Journal's] market as its own and is not operating as a traditional newspaper, Righthaven has failed to show that there has been any harm to the value of the copyright."