A Las Vegas realtor who used an excerpt of a local newspaper's article on his promotional web site was exercising his right of fair-use and a local copyright-holding company doesn't have a case for infringement, said a federal district court judge on Tuesday.
"After reviewing Nelson's use of the copyrighted material, the court finds that Nelson's use falls within the Fair Use doctrine," wrote Larry R. Hicks, a federal district court judge for the district of Nevada in an opinion. "Accordingly, Nelson did not infringe Righthaven's copyright as a matter of law and the court shall grant Nelson's motion," for dismissal.
At issue was realtor Michael Nelson's use of an excerpt of an article from the Las Vegas Review Journal about housing that ran on April 30th. Nelson has excepted a portion of the article on his web site and then linked back to the original article on the newspaper's web site.
Righthaven had argued that Nelson had infringed upon its copyright by using the article without prior authorization. But Hicks found that Nelson was perfectly within his rights when all the the fair-use factors were applied to the situation.
The judge noted in his four-page opinion that the use of the article was both educational and commercial, factual, and excerpted in a way that doesn't dilute the market for the work.
The case is notable because Righthaven has been firing off dozens and dozens of lawsuits against individuals for posting Las Vegas Review Journal articles on their web sites. The firm’s activities have become so prolific that a web site has been created to keep track at Righthavenlawsuits.com.
This dismissal is believed by a local newspaper reporter covering the case to be the first of one of Righthaven't lawsuit.
The case is also notable because digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing Righthaven in a similar fair-use case. The group said late September that it has taken on the group forum site the Democratic Underground as a client. Righthaven sued the owners of the web site after a user posted a four-paragraph excerpt of a 34-paragraph Review-Journal article, along with a link to the original story.
The EFF is critical of Righthaven’s approach because the targets of the lawsuits have said that they have not received cease-and-desist letters prior to being sued.