The Capitol Morning Report, a news website for people who work in and around the Capitol, claims in a lawsuit that its contents were pirated by two individuals and a Southern California water district.
The suit, filed Wednesday in Sacramento federal court, accuses the defendants of violating copyright, contract, computer, privacy, trade secret, and trespass laws.
A year ago, according to the suit, the Upper San Gabriel Municipal Water District purchased a "single reader user license" for access to the Capitol Morning Report, which allowed only one district employee Lara Larramendi to access its content.
But Larramendi immediately shared the confidential pass code with Keith Umemoto, who has held a number of state government positions over the years, the suit claims.
According to online records, as of 2011 he was a staff services manager at the Department of Rehabilitation, although the online state government telephone directory shows him working there and at the Department of Industrial Relations.
The water district, which serves an area east of Los Angeles, and Larramendi "were aware that Umemoto was copying and distributing each day's issue of the report," the suit alleges. It claims he was copying virtually the entire report, which is published five days a week, and distributing it via email to a list of approximately 100 individuals.
The suit asks for an injunction barring the defendants from engaging in the alleged activity; damages of not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 for each instance of copyright infringement; enhanced statutory damages of $150,000 for each instance; and actual damages for lost profits in an amount not yet known.
Umemoto, 57, could not be located Thursday.
When the water district was first contacted, a reporter was told Larramendi, 60, was the spokeswoman for the district, but was not in the office. Contacted at her home in Monrovia, she said: "I would have to consult with my attorney," and hung up.
A subsequent message left for the general manager of the district went unanswered.
According to the suit, the Capitol Morning Report was started in 1996, currently employs six people, and is owned by Robert Fairbanks and his son, John Fairbanks. The elder Fairbanks is a retired newspaper reporter who was at one time the Capitol bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times.
The suit says the report has about 4,000 subscribers. A one-year single reader user license is $500, while a one-year group subscription user license for up to 100 readers is $8,000, it says.