Many bloggers have tried to find a business model for blogging, but Steve Gibson's figured out a way to make money off the bloggers themselves. He relies on suing them.
Gibson is CEO of Las Vegas company Righthaven , which purchases the copyright to newspaper content and then sues bloggers and websites that use the articles without obtaining permission. The company, which was formed in March, has filed 80+ federal lawsuits against those using articles from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Currently he hopes that Stephens Media, which owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal, will allow him to expand his business to other newspapers owned by the company.
There can be big bucks in suing bloggers. Violations of the U.S. Copyright Act can be punished with fines up to $150,000 for an infringement. Most individuals prefer to settle the lawsuits by paying out-of-court settlements.
Other companies have found suing for copyright infringement less lucrative. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has spent $64 million in legal actions, which resulted in $1.3 million in settlements. The U.S. Copyright Group , which represents independent film producers, has been suing BitTorrent users by the thousands for downloading pirated movies. When Time Warner Cable refused to turn over information about customers, the group threatened to sue Time Warner itself.
One early Righthaven target was NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws . NORML was sued for copying, among other pieces, "the literary work entitled 'Dr. Reefer's business goes to pot.'" NORML representatives pointed out that perhaps the company supplying the NORML newsfeed, the Media Awareness Project, might be a better target.
Complaints have been made that Righthaven does not contact sites and ask them to take the offending material down before filing suit. While takedown notices are not required, skipping that step when suing is not usual practice. Some defendants, such as the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, claim they were targeted for political reasons.
Righthaven has left some violations alone, such as the appearance of Las Vegas Review-Journal material on the website of U.S. Senate candidate Danny Tarkanian.
" Or what protections are there for journalism how are bloggers different from free-lance journalists?"
Presumably a newspaper that reposted content from another site would be subject to the same penalties. It's the practice of yanking entire stories and reposting them that's coming under fire -- as I understand it. Here's an overview of "fair use": http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter9/
Make sure you read that overview of fair use--you will see that there's really no way to know for sure what constitutes fair use. A scholarly purpose will get more leeway than a commercial one--but there's no strict standard. Worst of all: these lawsuits are being filed without any warning or opportunity for correction. If a lawyer wanted to, he could file suit over a one paragraph quote. He wouldn't win in court--but you would have to spend thousands of dollars or more of your own money to win--and you wouldn't get any of it back. Great scam, isn't it?
"Anyway on the internet everyone quotes everyone else! Surely a simple excerpt that is linked to the original news story is fine?"
Don't quote any dead trees news stories. As I point out, even a SINGLE sentence provides an excuse to sue, and knowing that you will in court won't be much help when you have to hire an attorney for thousands of dollars to defend you. Fair use is an affirmative defense at trial. A lawyer can destroy your life in the meantime, allowing him to get thousands of dollars EVEN IF YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT. And that's the point of the current copyright law.
Small timer bloggers will be affected here. But you have point @CatRambo, arrangement between the blogger and the site is important and by just reading the terms and conditions will help them to know and understand the site policies.