Is Righthaven All Wrong? The Quest for Sanity in the Latest Copyright Controversy
What happens when a company retroactively purchases (from a few newspapers) the right to sue website owners where copies of the newspaper’s articles appeared for alleged copyright violations?
You get a lot of angry people and federal judges unwilling to engage in the company’s shenanigans.
The company – Righthaven’s sole business appears to be essentially purchasing the right to sue internet users who allegedly post articles from various newspapers – most notably the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Once Righthaven purchases the right to sue
(by obtaining the copyright), it files suit in federal court in Las Vegas. Certain states, such as New York, actually have little-known laws preventing the purchase of certain lawsuits or claims (though NY’s Champerty law was narrowed by judicial decision about ten years ago).
There is a long tortured legal history behind the Righthaven suits (which is explained in well in Eric Goldman’s blog). For our purposes, we’ll highlight a few recently developments:
- As reported on VegasInc.com, a federal judge just threw out two Righthaven lawsuits because Righthaven failed to show that the Defendants had been served on time. To me, this makes it clear that the purpose of filing the lawsuits is a shakedown. There is no reason that Righthaven could not serve the mentioned Defendants within the time proscribed by the rules. At the very least, Righhaven could have requested more time from the Court – which it does not appear it did.
- A federal judge sanctioned Righthaven $5,000 for misleading the Court concerning the terms of the contract between it and Stephens Media (the parent company of the Las Vegas Review-Journal).
- At least some of Righthaven’s lawsuits have been dismissed for lack of standing. The Court noted in its decision that Righthaven had only obtained the right to sue and not the copyrights themselves – a necessary component to a copyright suit.
- In a stunning ruling, a federal judge in Las Vegas ordered Righthaven to pay a Defendant’s legal fees after dismissing Righthaven’s case.
Commentators have noted that Righthaven may be withering on the vine. It is being attacked from all angles, the legal theories that form the basis of their stable of cases has been completely undermined, and they have not filed any new lawsuits recently.
Our firm’s attorneys have been on both sides of the copyright argument and it is one thing to enforce your legitimate copyrights and preserve your intellectual property. It is entirely different to do what Righthaven is doing by starting numerous lawsuits – many of which do not appear to have any merit – as a shakedown.
My schedule this week does not allow me to provide additional detail of this controversy – which for copyright lawyers is interesting to watch and even more interesting to litigate. You can check out Eric Goldman’s blog, vegasinc.com (which has an entire portal dedicated to this issue) or a comprehensive story appearing in the Las Vegas Sun.
Feel free to leave a comment or contact me for more information.