Righthaven: A Blitzkrieg War on Internet Speech

What do you call a thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean? A good start.

But let's begin with just three lawyers:
Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and Steve Gibson.

All three worked for Chicago Law firm Sidley Austin LLP, where Gibson and Michelle Obama specialized in "intellectual property" law for the firm. You know..... copyright law and such.

Now, in a totally coincidental move, Steve Gibson, via his Righthaven firm, has launched a salvo of legal suits demanding a payoff of $75,000 from internet websites, for alleged copyright law infringements incurred when the sites posted extracts from major media news articles.

The tactic is designed to severely damage internet free speech; and to bolster the declining fortunes of major media --while also raking in the RICO dollars for Mr. Gibson. When I say 'RICO,' I mean: as in racket.

The clever part that only a lawyer could have thought up, is that Gibson's firm first identifies news articles which have been widely reprinted in part or in full on internet sites. Gibson then buys the copyright for these news articles from a major media client. Finally, as new owner of the copyright for these articles, Gibson launches lawsuits against bloggers and websites.

The firm does not first issue any "cease and desist" notice warning bloggers that they are infringing copyright. No, step one is straight to court --for maximum intimidation and a sure shakedown.

Gibson's opening tranche of 107 lawsuits to date, features articles first published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Now it gets chilling:
The Review-Journal’s publisher, Stephens Media in Las Vegas, runs over 70 other newspapers in nine states, and Gibson says he already has an agreement to expand his practice to cover those properties. (Stephens Media declined comment, and referred inquiries to Gibson.)

Newspaper Chain’s New Business Plan: Copyright Suits
from Wired, by David Kravets - July 22, 2010

So if Gibson gets away with this first nibble at internet websites, he can scale up to target many more websites based on articles from 70 further Stephens Media online newspapers. Theoretically this might inflate the number of websites targeted by suits to around 7,000.

Doubtless other corporate media conglomerates are waiting in the wings to contract with Gibson. All this could rival in scope the infamous RIAA music copyright issue, with likely tens of thousands of lawsuits coming down the legal pipe and striking websites of whom most would lack the financial resources to fight.

Already, the websites targeted in the first wave are settling the lawsuits, with reported payments to Gibson's firm averaging around $2,500. It's a well chosen settlement amount by Gibson. Small enough to encourage websites to settle -large enough to act as a intimidating threat.

If all this goes to plan, many bloggers and website owners will not be exercising their free speech online. They will be too busy scrambling to trawl back through their archives and delete major media articles which might make them a target. If they don't simply decommission their blogs and websites entirely, that is.

The music industry challenge to downloader's was innocuous in it's effect, by comparison to this gambit. The difference is that many of the news articles on blogs and sites are about political issues as blogger's debate the content of online political news topics. So this is likely to deeply affect the kind of open debate we have taken for granted.

Until now.

This is a war on free speech. A political war, led by a member of the Chicago legal mob who has close connections to the Obama's.

If you think it's only about money and not about politics you need to factor that the second ever Gibson's lawsuit was against the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. You might know them better by the acronym NORML.

The fourth Gibson target was Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Inc.. Other political targets of this internet witch hunt include:
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
Independent Political Report
Free Republic
Americans For Democratic Action
Americans For Immigration Reform
Democratic Underground
American Political Action Committee
Americans for Legal Immigration PAC
Americans Against Food Taxes
Michael A. Nystrom of DailyPaul.com

These are the opening salvos in a war on internet free speech.

One effective defensive measure by the internet blogging community would be to blacklist media outlets who join as clients with Gibson and his Righthaven firm. Another would be to ensure reputational damage to corporate media which participate. Another would be so-called 'Google Bombing' to associate such media outlets with derogatory search terms like "hates internet free speech."

Whatever it takes, must be done --and quickly. This is a blitzkrieg war, and before you know it this devious plot will have deeply damaged the cause of free speech online.

By the way, you can republish some, any or all of this article.

I won't be suing you.


  1. "This is a war on free speech. A political war, led by a member of the Chicago legal mob who has close connections to the Obama's."


    Nah, I don't think so. Maybe if you were a little taller.

  2. This is right on! Not any kind of reeeaaaaaaaaaaach as you stated Mary.


    http://www.people.com/people/michelle_obama excerpt Working as a lawyer at a Chicago firm, she mentors summer associate Barack Obama in 1989. Michelle eventually falls for the Hawaii-bred community organizer turned lawyer, with whom she attends meetings in church basements. "He connected with me and everyone in that church basement (this is a qualifier for the above info)

    http://www.care2.com/news/member/791235331/2272868 10 Obama Partner Assaults Internet Free Speech


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