Legal Attack on Virginia Citizens Defense League Fails, But At a Cost

VCDL Table
VCDL Table

Covington VA –-( WHAT HAPPENED: Back on September 29, 2010, a Nevada litigation company called Righthaven filed a lawsuit against VCDL alleging copyright infringement for the use of a Las Vegas Review-Journal story in a VCDL Update.

(The story in the VA-ALERT Update on July 21, 2010, was item number 31 about a CHP holder who was shot to death by police at a Costco in Las Vegas when the CHP holder didn’t comply with two simultaneous and hopelessly conflicting orders from police – “Don’t move!” and “Put your gun on the ground!”)

What Righthaven was doing with the suit was a form of legal extortion: “Give us a bunch of money to drop the suit or you’ll have to pay a lot more money to an attorney to defend yourself!”

VCDL was in good company – Righthaven filed at least 276 such lawsuits in a little over a year! These suits were going to be a primary source of income for Righthaven.

A list of all those sued by Righthaven (VCDL is number 142 on the list) can be found here:

Righthaven would scan the internet for anyone having stories on their website from the Las Vegas Review-Journal or from a few other selected newspapers. Once a story was found, then Righthaven would buy the litigation rights to that story from the newspaper, and without any warning immediately sue the company, organization, or individual that had posted the story.

In VCDL’s case, Righthaven was seeking $150,000 from us and to have the “” domain transferred to Righthaven!

To try to twist the rope tighter for a settlement, Jim Snyder, VCDL’s Vice President, and I were also named individually as defendants.

If Righthaven didn’t want a fight, then they picked the wrong organization to sue. The Board simply would not tolerate the idea of caving into Righthaven and voted unanimously to fight the case to completion. When we stood to fight them, Righthaven’s attorneys then hinted to our attorneys that they might consider a smaller out-of-court settlement from us. A settlement was simply out of the question for two reasons: we had done nothing wrong and it would also encourage Righthaven to continue these illegitimate and unfair practices against other companies, groups, and individuals.

Ultimately VCDL believed we would be vindicated because:

  • VCDL is a NON-PROFIT corporation. So it could not be claimed that we published the story to make money on it.
  • There is a “fair use” exemption in the law for using such a story for educational purposes. BINGO! That’s what we use them for every time. Most often I mark up the story with my own comments, as well.

Because VCDL is a corporation, its individual Directors are shielded from most lawsuits. However, that would have still put a draw on personal funds for Jim and me until such time as the courts removed us from the suit.

Also, VCDL had not been given any notification that there was something wrong. Instead, Righthaven just sued VCDL out of the clear blue sky, which, of course, was what this was all about from the beginning. Righthaven didn’t want us to fix the problem; they wanted our money.

This attack on VCDL was not about gun rights. If you look at the list of those being sued, you’ll notice no common thread politically or philosophically. VCDL had unfortunately caught a predator’s attention and was dragged into a fight.

Always frugal with membership funds, the VCDL Board of Directors felt that we didn’t need to contact members for money to support the fight, as we felt we would win and could sue to get our very costly legal expenses reimbursed. The problem is that the firms which stood up and fought back, like VCDL was doing, were winning their cases as they came up, which ultimately caused Righthaven to go broke!

So by the time the show-cause judicial hearing came up, Righthaven, seeing the writing on the wall, didn’t even show up. Righthaven’s case against VCDL has been dismissed, but VCDL is left with $30,000 in legal fees with no chance of recovery from our now financially defunct accuser.

While we are pleased and relieved that Righthaven did not succeed in its morally and ethically corrupt mission against us, the depletion of VCDL’s cash flow in defending against them seriously harms our immediate capability to successfully engage attacks to our rights on all fronts.

We need YOUR help now!

As you know, we as an organization rarely ask for money even though that is the grease that allows the wheels to turn. And we would not be asking now if it wasn’t critical. You can rest assured that we will continue to spend carefully and frugally as though the money comes from all of our own pockets (because we understand that it does!)

Thanks in advance for anything you can do to help us continue our most urgent mission to safeguard and advance our right to keep and bear arms in Virginia.

To donate to VCDL, please click on this link:


About VCDL

Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc. (VCDL). VCDL is an all-volunteer, non-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to defending the human rights of all Virginians. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms is a fundamental human right. Visit:

Virginia Citizens Defense League

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Clayton E. Cramer

You were fortunate to have a large organization. The Armed Citizen blog ended up settling out of court because we could not afford to spend $30,000 defending ourselves.