Living by the sword

I’ve covered the antics of Righthaven, a copyright-enforcement entity that sues first and asks questions later, before.  From their activities over the past year, it seems clear that Righthaven thinks (at least, it loudly says) it fighting the good fight by vigorously enforcing copyrights in news stories.

Ironically, Steve Green at the Las Vegas Sun thinks that Righthaven is undermining newspapers’ case for copyright protection:

One year ago, U.S. newspapers and broadcasters could feel confident they controlled the news content they created….Then along came Righthaven LLC of Las Vegas, the self-appointed protector of the newspaper industry from such news sharers.

Some 250 Righthaven lawsuits later, Righthaven’s startling achievement is that newspapers now have less — not more — protection from copyright infringers.

Steve’s full analysis is well worth reading, as is his cogent summary of highlights from recent Righthaven-related cases.

Personally, I find this idea that Righthaven may be hurting copyright owners more than helping quite compelling.  Copyright law is often ambiguous, and the precise line between infringement and fair use is unclear.  Whatever else can be said about the merits of a typical Righthaven lawsuit, the sheer number of cases is forcing courts to take a hard look at the policies underlying copyright law and to provide some much-needed clarity.  Insofar as Righthaven’s tactics are, in practice, little better than bullying, judges seem to be doing every thing they can to skew that clarity in favor of Righthaven defendants — and away from established news publishers.

It is ironic that Righthaven’s own actions are starting to set precedents that are undermining the legal foundations for copyright’s protection of news stories.  If I were a publisher with an expansive view of copyright law, I’d be furious at Righthaven.

Las Vegas Sun reports on ASA move to Las Vegas

Last week, the American Sociological Association announced that the 2011 Annual Meetings have officially been moved to Las Vegas from Chicago. This news made it into the tourism column in the Las Vegas Sun with some interesting commentary:

The public usually doesn’t have many kind things to say about unions because of the labor disruptions they can produce. But here’s an instance in which union tactics are playing in Las Vegas’ favor.

Last week, the American Sociological Association announced that it’s going to have its 106th annual meeting at Caesars Palace Aug. 20-23. The reason: A protracted labor dispute involving two Chicago hotels is showing no sign of resolution and the American Sociological Association Council opted against taking a chance that it wouldn’t be solved by August…

It’ll be the first time that the association has met in Las Vegas, and members seem delighted, not only because for the first time since 1990 the organization with 5,000 attendees will be able to conduct its event under one roof but because sociologists find Las Vegas to be interesting laboratory.

“Not only is Las Vegas vibrant and fascinating from a sociological perspective, but it’s also easily accessible for our members across the country,” Hillman said. “When we decided to move our meeting from Chicago, we put an emphasis on finding an alternate location that offered optimum convenience for our members. By selecting Las Vegas and Caesars Palace, we believe we’ve achieved that goal.”

Workers at Caesars Palace have union contracts, but they don’t expire until 2012.

LVCVA representatives have to be happy with the association’s decision, since it’s wanted to get more medical groups to give Las Vegas a try.

The next goal should be to work hard with the association to convince leadership to keep the event here. If the event shows a healthy attendance increase from previous years, the group would have to think twice about returning to Chicago.

A couple of things strike me as interesting in this report:

1. So the sociological meetings can be written off as a research trip? Las Vegas is a fascinating place and it will be interesting to see all of the sociologists out on the town. But most sociological work I have read about Las Vegas, mainly in the field of urban sociology, has been negative. Las Vegas is described as a simulacrum, a fake place that illustrates the worst of American consumption. Perhaps the convention people in Las Vegas don’t care what a group says about a place as long as they are willing to spend money there.

2. Is this report suggesting that sociology is somehow related to medicine?

3. Did the reporter look at how ASA rotates its annual meetings between certain cities? I would be shocked if the meetings are in Las Vegas again next year, not because it is a bad place or has poor facilities but because ASA seems to like to move around.