Ruling that Righthaven misled court likely to be felt in other cases

A federal judge’s finding Thursday that newspaper copyright lawsuit filer Righthaven LLC misled the court will likely be used in one or more planned legal actions against Righthaven and its newspaper partners.

At least two attorneys are known to be considering suing Righthaven and/or the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Denver Post on behalf of current and former Righthaven defendants. The basis for a suit or suits, among other things, would be that Righthaven has tried to coerce defendants into settling by falsely claiming it owns the copyrights it sues over.

Righthaven since March 2010 has filed 275 lawsuits over Review-Journal and Denver Post material it says has been misappropriated by Internet sites, bloggers and message board posters. The copyright infringement litigation campaign stumbled this summer when three federal judges found Righthaven lacks standing to sue over R-J material. Since last year, Righthaven has also suffered three lawsuit defeats on fair use grounds.

One of the attorneys plotting to sue Righthaven, Todd Kincannon in Columbia, S.C., announced Thursday he’s accepting past and present Righthaven defendants "as new clients for class action or mass action litigation against Righthaven, its media clients and others involved in the Righthaven operation."

Kincannon said he’s taking the clients on a contingency basis, meaning if there is no recovery of damages, they will not have to pay his law firm, the Kincannon Firm.

Kincannon is already litigating against Righthaven on behalf of Righthaven defendant Dana Eiser and a group called Citizens Against Litigation Abuse Inc. in South Carolina.

In Nevada’s federal court, Citizens Against Litigation Abuse, represented by Kincannon, is appearing as a friend of the court against Righthaven in two cases. It’s arguing in those cases that Righthaven has been practicing law without a license. Righthaven has not yet responded to this assertion.

Kincannon also is now representing Righthaven defendant Dean Mostofi, who was sued for a second time by Righthaven on Wednesday, just hours after a federal judge dismissed the first Righthaven suit against him.

Wednesday’s suit No. 2 against Mostofi was the first to be filed by Righthaven under the latest version of its lawsuit contract with Review-Journal owner Stephens Media LLC – a contract Righthaven has amended twice and insists gives it standing to sue once and for all.

Righthaven was hit with a $5,000 fine as a sanction on Thursday by U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt in Las Vegas for failing to disclose that Stephens Media was an interested party in the lawsuits over R-J material, as it shares in Righthaven lawsuit revenue.

"This has been part of a concerted effort to hide Stephens Media’s role in this litigation," Hunt said.

Hunt didn’t say why he thought Righthaven had hid Stephens Media’s involvement in the lawsuits. One theory is that if Righthaven had made that disclosure, it would have undermined its claims of standing to sue, as plaintiffs in copyright lawsuits must have exclusive ownership of the copyrights at issue.

Hunt also commented on the relationship between Stephens Media and Righthaven and representations Righthaven had made about exclusive rights it had in the copyrights assigned to it by Stephens Media – when in fact those rights were retained exclusively by Stephens Media.

The judge noted that at one point in the litigation, before the lawsuit contract was unsealed, Stephens Media had filed a court brief saying it was "neither an owner, member or investor in Righthaven LLC nor holds any pecuniary (financial) interest in the company itself."

Yet, as defense attorneys fighting Righthaven have noted, Righthaven did nothing to set the record straight about Stephens Media having a direct financial interest in the lawsuits as it receives 50 percent of lawsuit revenue, after costs.

"The representations about the relationship and the rights of Righthaven were misrepresentations. They were misleading," Hunt said.

Former Review-Journal publisher and current columnist Sherman Frederick, in the meantime, appeared to comment in a blog post Thursday that he was responsible for Righthaven’s 2010 lawsuit against then-U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle.

"I even sued her for lifting our material," the post by "Sherm" said.

This seems to confirm assertions by Righthaven defendants that Righthaven has been acting as the agent of Stephens Media and the Review-Journal, as opposed to suing over its own copyrights.

And Righthaven’s role suing over Review-Journal material and sharing lawsuit settlement revenue has been like that of a law firm – even though Righthaven isn’t a law firm, Hunt noted during Thursday’s hearing.

“In the court’s view, the arrangement between Righthaven and Stephens Media is nothing more, nor less, than a law firm — which incidentally I don’t think is licensed to practice law in this state — with a contingent fee agreement masquerading as a company,” Hunt said.

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  1. The ego in Shermie...

    like with any egomaniac, will be his demise.

  2. but he'll (Shermie will) find someone / thing to blame for his deepening demise.

  3. Sherman Frederick will do anything as his paper, the LVRJ is spinning out of control on a downhill spiral in readership. I get the LVRJ and Sun and the Sunday edition used to be a great big paper fall of advertisements. It was great to read all the sale ads. Now, the Sunday paper is smaller than ever. That tells me that the readership is off and off by a lot.
    The other topic is Righthaven LLC. They should be put out of business. This gang is only in business to file lawsuits. They don't own any copyrights until they troll the net for articles written by the LVRJ and then in agreement copyright the stories so they can attempt to make a buck. They are internet trolls.

  4. It's been a while since I've commented here, but it does seem to be spinning out of control for Righthaven and I guess the Review-Journal. The question I have is why Stephens Media continues its relationship with Righthaven. While there have been a lot of settlements and many rulings against Righthaven, there seems to be no retreat on the dynamic duo's part. It just seems nuts at this points. As for Sherman Frederick, that too is odd: Why does Stephens continue to run his drivel on a blog. In my opinion he made a lifetime of bad decisions at the paper, he's all but destroyed its credibility, yet that guy in Arkansas continues on Sherm's path. I can't even imagine how the reporters at the RJ feel, those who are left there. It's disgraceful to the newspaper business and Las Vegas. On the other hand, maybe it's just a case of the inmates taking over the asylum.

  5. By refiling the suit against Dean Mostofi Righthaven has gauranteed themselves another counter-suit to contend with. No Todd Kincannon has taken his case as well as others RIghthaven will be pursued relentlessly.

    The LVRJ must prop up Righthaven because without Righthaven the focus will be on Stephens media and all counter-suits will be on their hands. That is why Stephens Media is stubbornly supporting Righthaven and even forced to give up even more of their copyrights and risk losing them all together. Contractually Righthaven is obligated to pay any judgments that may come to Stephens Media but if there is no Righthaven or if Righthaven does not have the cash to indemnify Stephens Media then they will be left holding the bag.

  6. As a prevailing defendant and wanna-be archenemy of Righthaven, I recommend trailblazing attorney, Todd Kincannon of The Kincannon Firm who has announced he is accepting past and present Righthaven defendants as new clients for class action (mass action) litigation against Righthaven, its media clients, and others involved in the Righthaven operation.

    If you have been sued by Righthaven, even if you have already settled your case, you are invited to call or email. Cases will be taken on contingency, meaning if there is no recovery, clients will not have to pay for The Kincannon Firm's services.

    If you are interested, call The Kincannon Firm at 877-99-COURT or email [email protected].