Media

Denver Post parent MediaNews Group puts Mike Rosen column at center of copyright suit

Last month, we noted that Denver Post and MediaNews Group execs weren't eager to discuss a copyright-infringement warning published by the paper. At the time, we asked these three questions: "So... what prompted the Post to rattle this saber? Are lawsuits imminent? And against who?" We now have some answers, thanks to a lawsuit filed last week in South Carolina over a Mike Rosen column.

According to the Las Vegas Sun, Righthaven LLC, described as a "Las Vegas-based newspaper copyright enforcement company" that's filed 179 lawsuits in Nevada since March, is targeting South Carolina blogger Dana Eiser for posting "a 'literary work' for which Righthaven owns the copyright" to her website, LowCountry912.

The work in question? Rosen's "A Letter to the Tea Partyers," published on September 23.

Why would Righthaven own the copyright to something from the Post? The answer has to do with the firm's lawsuit strategy. The Sun reports that on November 19, less than a week after the appearance of the Post's letter to readers about copyright infringement, and the same day Westword noted that interview requests on the subject had been met with figurative silence, Righthaven "applied to the U.S. Copyright Office for rights to the Denver Post column, citing a transfer agreement from MediaNews," headed by Post publisher Dean Singleton.

This methodology matches the one used in previous suits, the Sun points out, with Righthaven "obtaining copyrights weeks or months after stories, editorials, columns and illustrations are published -- then suing the alleged infringers on a retroactive basis."

Why go after a blogger in South Carolina rather than one in Colorado -- like, for instance, ColoradoPols.com, a political website that received a letter from a Post-employed attorney about using too much copyrighted work several months ago? Perhaps because doing so avoids picking another fight in its own backyard even as it sends a warning to local sites that they face expensive legal entanglements if they are too grabby with Post copy.

Here's the letter sent to ColoradoPols.com:

More from our Media archive: "Denver Post online circulation figures better than print, but hookup with The Onion is no joke."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts