Lawsuit filer Righthaven LLC of Las Vegas and newspaper chain Stephens Media LLC will be writing off their investment from yet another copyright lawsuit after it was voluntarily dismissed.
Righthaven since March 2010 has filed 275 lawsuits alleging material from Stephens Media’s Las Vegas Review-Journal and the separately owned Denver Post was infringed on by defendants including websites, bloggers and message-board posters.
The plan was for Righthaven to share lawsuit winnings with the newspapers, minus costs.
The litigation campaign stalled this summer and, most recently this month, after judges in Nevada and Colorado ruled Righthaven lacked standing to sue under its lawsuit contracts with the newspaper owners. The latest ruling against Righthaven in Colorado will likely end 34 open suits there and extinguish Righthaven’s investment in them — though Righthaven plans to appeal.
Righthaven is appealing adverse Nevada rulings as well and in the meantime says it has revised its Review-Journal contract beefing up its right to sue — a contention defense attorneys dispute.
Righthaven and Stephens Media, in the meantime, on Sept. 23 filed papers in Las Vegas federal court voluntarily dismissing a heavily-litigated Righthaven lawsuit against Thomas Neveu of Boston, and his counterclaim.
Righthaven in September 2010 sued an entity called Climate Change Fraud and two officials Righthaven says were associated with its website, www.climatechangedispatch.com, Neveu and Thomas Richard. The suit claimed material from the R-J was posted on the Climate Change website without authorization.
Richard and Climate Change Fraud appeared to have never been served and didn’t respond to the lawsuit.
Neveu, representing himself, responded to the suit by peppering Righthaven and Stephens Media with motions to dismiss and a counterclaim against Stephens Media and Righthaven charging Righthaven had committed fraud upon the U.S. Copyright Offfice, that its claims were barred by the doctrine of fair use and that its lawsuit was barred by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Neveu charged in his counterclaim that the lawsuit was caused by a strategy by Stephens Media, “working in conjunction with Righthaven, which is a front and sham representative, to seek windfall recoveries of statutory damages and to exact nuisance settlements by challenging a fair use of an excerpt or an article that was owned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and was made freely available by them on the Internet until the time Righthaven purchased this copyright, along with many others, for the express purpose to pursue concocted and frivolous copyright lawsuits.”
Righthaven and Stephens Media deny the no-warning lawsuits are frivolous and say they’re needed to fight rampant online infringements of newspaper content.
The case grew contentious when Neveu in March filed what he called an “official complaint” with the federal court in Las Vegas about the litigation tactics of Righthaven and one of its outside attorneys, Shawn Mangano. Neveu charged that even after Righthaven learned of health issues he was dealing with, it refused to delay proceedings in the lawsuit under reasonable terms.
“Since December 2010, Righthaven, and more specifically Mr. Mangano, have engaged in continuously unprofessional behavior in an attempt to take advantage of my pro se status and squeeze a settlement out of me,” Neveu complained to the court. “Mr. Mangano even had the audacity, after being provided with documentation from my doctor (about a Neveu health issue), to grant a discovery extension for two months if I dismissed my counterclaim. In other words, he tried to blackmail me into dropping my countersuit.”
An email attached to his complaint from Mangano to Neveu, however, said that with his counterclaim: "You have chosen to seek affirmative legal recourse against Righthaven and Stephens, both of which have incurred and will continue to incur legal fees defending your baseless claims."
The Jan. 14 email indicated Righthaven offered to stay litigation in the case for 60 days so Neveu could deal with his health issues if Neveu would drop his counterclaim against Righthaven and his complaint against Stephens Media with prejudice, meaning they could not be refiled.
Records indicate the court didn’t do anything with this “official complaint’’ and the Neveu litigation eventually was put on hold later in March because of health issues that Neveu said he was dealing with.
The litigation has now quietly ended with Neveu, Stephens Media and Righthaven signing papers saying that “continuation of this action may adversely impact Mr. Neveu’s health and welfare.’’
Under their agreement, Righthaven’s lawsuit and Neveu’s counterclaim were voluntarily dismissed, with each party bearing their own attorney’s fees.
The dismissals were with prejudice, meaning neither side can refile the cases.
Righthaven, which tries to make money by settling lawsuits rather than litigating them, appeared to have legal work valued at thousands of dollars invested in the case: The researching and drafting of the lawsuit, serving Neveu and drafting and filing three more substantial motions and briefs.
Stephens Media, too, is eating some legal costs as its attorneys at the law firm Campbell & Williams in Las Vegas had filed four briefs or motions before the case was closed.
The dismissal of the Neveu lawsuit follows the dismissals of 19 Righthaven lawsuits over R-J material since July 20 after Righthaven failed to show it had served those defendants in time — again suggesting Righthaven’s investments in those suits will be lost unless its right to sue is revived and it then sues those defendants again.
The latest such dismissal was a Righthaven lawsuit against Tattoo Guide and codefendants.