Copyright troll Righthaven is exploiting a loophole in intellectual property law, suing websites that might have avoided any trace of civil liability had they spent a mere $105. That's the fee for a blog or other website to register a DMCA takedown agent with the U.S. Copyright Office, an obscure bureaucratic prerequisite to enjoying a legal "safe harbor" from copyright lawsuits over third-party posts, such as reader comments.
Many of its lawsuits arise, not from articles posted by a website’s proprietors, but from comments and forum posts by the site’s readers. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a website enjoys effective immunity from civil copyright liability for user content, provided they, promptly remove infringing material at the request of a rightsholder. (...) But to dock in that legal safe harbor, a site has to, among other things, register an official contact point for DMCA takedown notices, a process that involves filling out a form and mailing a check to the government.