Short News Excerpts in an Online Forum Constitutes Fair Use

March 13, 2012

March 13, 2012 (Mountain View, CA) – Laurence Pulgram, Chair of the Fenwick & West Copyright Litigation Group, has represented the website Democratic Underground throughout their ongoing copyright litigation with Righthaven LLC. A Nevada federal judge’s recent ruling in this matter was featured in the Law360 article, "News Excerpts in Web Forum are Fair Use, Judge Rules."

The Judge recently ruled that posting a short excerpt of a news article on an online forum does constitute fair use, thus ending the long-running copyright case filed by Righthaven LLC against Democratic Underground.

Righthaven is a holding company established to enforce copyrights of newspapers including the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and in 2010, they sued Democratic Underground after a few sentences from a Review-Journal story were posted to the website.

Although this matter was dismissed in 2011 for lack of standing, the case proceeded with the newspaper's publisher Stephens Media LLC as the plaintiff. Democratic Underground went on to file a motion for summary judgment of non-infringement, which Judge Roger Hunt of the District of Nevada recently granted.

The ruling states that Democratic Underground cannot be found liable for copyright infringement because it did not know about or encourage the posting, only learning of the alleged infringement when the suit was filed.

The Judge also ruled, "the act of posting this five-sentence excerpt of a fifty-sentence news article on a political discussion forum is a fair use ... and the fair use doctrine provides a complete defense to the claim of copyright infringement."

Fenwick & West attorneys Clifford C. Webb and Jennifer J. Johnson also represented Democratic Underground in this matter, along with Electronic Frontier Foundation attorneys, Kurt Opsahl and Corynne McSherry, as well as Las Vegas attorney Chad Bowers.

Click here to read the full Law360 article (subscription required).