The social Darwinists at the Las Vegas Review-Journal have pulled a Nixon and are lashing out at their enemies list. Worse, they are using a vehicle they have always decried: lawsuits.
In case you haven’t heard, the state’s largest newspaper has been suing organizations they don’t like for copyright infringement. The sin which has so sorely aggrieved them consists of (gasp!) posting links to RJ stories at their websites.
The latest outfit to get hit is the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. (Disclosure time: I am the Reno-Sparks NAACP delegate to PLAN.)
On May 4, the RJ sued PLAN and its webmaster for copyright infringement.
The lawsuit will be available with the web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com. I hope they don’t sue me for copyright infringement, even though it’s a protected public document.
First and foremost, this damnable legal action is a blatant violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and also of Nevada law against SLAPPs (strategic lawsuits against public participation).
Blogger Emily Green noted, “What makes (the) lawsuit against PLAN remarkable is that among the exhibits in the complaint is one for posting a story on its website in which PLAN itself was a subject of the article.”
So the RJ is suing its own news sources. That’s a scary echo of an oft-stated criticism of the U.S. auto industry and other corporate dinosaurs which for the past 30 years have been firing their own customers — their employees — in a race to the bottom.
At last Thursday’s PLAN meeting, founder Bob Fulkerson mused about refusing to talk to RJ reporters.
I advised against it. PLAN needs to talk to the press about its populist issues, including its current statewide petition drive to end the foreign-owned gold mining industry’s corporate welfare tax breaks.
Here is a list of offensive defenses which PLAN should consider.
1. Turnabout is fair play: In every future interview, PLAN’s representatives should tell RJ reporters up front that PLAN considers its oral comments and any written documents as proprietary and authorizes use only with a disclaimer that such PLAN intellectual property is copyrighted.
2. Turnabout, part demux: File counterclaims for abuse of legal process (using the courts as a pretext to obtain a result not otherwise attainable) and violation of the First Amendment.
3. The more the merrier: PLAN should file a motion asking the court to join other individuals and organizations, such as the uberconservative Nevada Policy Research Institute and the senate campaign of former UNLV basketball player Danny Tarkanian. Both have liberally linked RJ stories to their sites.
Fulkerson “said officials at the Review-Journal are being hypocritical by regularly complaining in editorials about unnecessary litigation in society — and then suing PLAN without first trying to resolve the problem out of court,” the Las Vegas Sun reported.
“’If they would have picked up the phone and said, ‘We have a problem with you posting these stories,’ we would have obliged them,’” Fulkerson told the Sun.
Fulkerson said it’s doubtful mining industry Web sites would be sued since PLAN believes the R-J is cozy with the mining industry.
“It appears they’re suing groups that don’t agree with their political agenda,” Fulkerson added.
Perhaps one case is the most instructive.
The RJ watchdog website lvjournalreview.com stated it well: “(The RJ) also sued Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. CREW is largely responsible for the current legal mess Sen. John Ensign is in. CREW filed the complaints against Ensign that led to the sweeping investigation into the Republican senator’s alleged misuse of his office. CREW was never told to take down an RJ story. (Executive director) Melanie Sloan said she was surprised the paper didn’t notify her it had a problem with her use of their stories.”
4. Hoist them on their own petard: Every RJ story encourages readers to e-mail stories to friends and post them on the myriad of social network websites. That alone should be enough to defeat the RJ’s claims. They have given the world permission to link their stories in order to build website traffic which they can turn into advertising revenue and maybe (heaven forbid) some new print advertisers and subscribers.
The northern news media — the four Sparks-Reno-Carson newspapers and three network TV stations — have not published word one about this story and apparently no one has yet noticed the greatest danger signaled by suing not only PLAN but its webmaster. He is a neutral party, posting only what his client tells him. He’s like the phone company: facilitating the medium but not the message. If he can be successfully sued for doing the typing, then no one is safe, including AT&T, Great Basin Internet here in northern Nevada, Yahoo, Google, you or me.
The RJ is run by a bunch of morally obtuse dogmatists who have taken leave of their ethical, moral, professional and business senses. No less than republican democracy is threatened by their damnable actions.
The Reno-Sparks NAACP holds its annual Freedom Fund Banquet on May 22 at the Peppermill in Reno. For ticket and sponsorship information, go to RenoSparksNAACP.org or contact me.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 41-year Nevadan, second vice-president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.