A patent troll is a firm that does no research, makes no products, and whose business is based solely on buying up patents and suing for infringement. Patent trolls are generally defined by three attributes: (1) nearly all their employees are lawyers, (2) nearly all their assets are patents, and (3) nearly all their revenue comes from litigation. (This is distinct from a patent dealer, who buys patents and resells them to other firms that might actually produce the products.)
Now, an enterprising shyster, Steve Gibson of the new firm Righthaven, has come up with the idea to use the same model for newspaper content.
To be fair, copyright trolling isn’t as bad as patent trolling. You’re safe from copyright trolls if you don’t use the content, which can’t be said for patent trolls. But both of them are parasites on creativity: patent trolls exploit innovations that look vaguely like their patents, while copyright trolls exploit derivative works.
Worse, in at least one case, the shyster sued the original author, on behalf of a derivative work:
Copyright enforcement outfit Righthaven has filed some questionable lawsuits in the past, but really outdid itself in a case against Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor.
That lawsuit, one of several filed on Friday, alleges that Curtis infringed copyright by reposting an article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Problem is, that article was itself based on an annual survey conducted by Curtis of ticket prices for entertainment shows.
Yes, Curtis went to the trouble of fielding a survey and then shared his findings with the newspaper, only to find himself sued for posting portions of the ensuing article on his own blog.
As you might guess, Gibson follows the RIAA by making no great effort to sue the right person, suing sites for material posted by commenters or pulled from wire services.
Anyway, the only good way to fight back against this is to boycott Righthaven’s clients and send them no traffic. Righthaven won’t say who they are (after all, the point isn’t to prevent copyright infringement, but to exploit it), so we only know the one that has already been revealed in litigation, Stephens Media. The boycott won’t be hard: Stephens Media owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal and a much of small-town papers you haven’t heard of.