Over the last week, a multipronged attack on free speech has come to light.
Leading the assault is Las Vegas-based copyright troll “Righthaven” led by Steve Gibson. On the fast track to becoming the most loathed person on the Internet, Gibson buys up copyrights to newspaper articles published in cyberspace and runs a Web crawler to locate sites that contain material from them. Gibson then sends shakedown letters to the Website owners threatening copyright violation fines up to $150,000 unless the owner pays Gibson off. Note that these malicious letters are NOT preceded by take-down requests, so site owners, several of whom run large message boards and news aggregators and therefore cannot vet all posts, are caught off guard with little apparent recourse without costly legal counsel.
Apparently possessing a death wish, Gibson has targeted bikers, patriots, gun rights advocates and Internet paranoids first. Making the job for the pitchforks and torches mob easier, Gibson, the egotistical walking enema, allowed Wired to publish a picture of his ugly, smirking mug for all to see.
A second prong of attack is led by the Reuters news agency and their paid attack dog Attributer Corporation. This pack of goons is trying a similar shakedown of sites like Godlike Productions, a very popular message board focusing on conspiracy themes. You can read about that ongoing issue here and here.
Of course, what is not discussed is that Websites dearly want to be quoted and linked to from as many sources as possible. A link from Reddit or Godlike Productions can generate tens of thousands of page views and boost a website’s visibility into another league. This is simply the most reliable way of generating traffic. No, these lawsuits are not meant to help prevent content “stealing,” but are rather insidious efforts bordering upon extortion.
Finally, the mainstream media has unleashed their hounds on bloggers and other small, independent media Websites who have become the main conduit of news in our society today. According to NewsBusters:
CNN’s two regulation-happy reporters, think the Sherrod situation can help bring attention to the “necessity” of blogging reform if she brings a defamation lawsuit against Andrew Breitbart.
According to Roberts, Sherrod has “the power now and she also has the profile to maybe bring this into a new light, so we’ll see where this goes.”
Are these efforts the beginning of a coordinated attack against Internet free speech during a dangerous time when our nation’s economy continues to degrade to depths last plumbed during the Great Depression? Time will tell.