Attorneys seek to auction Righthaven copyrights

Attorneys fighting Las Vegas copyright company Righthaven LLC asked for a court order Monday to have Righthaven’s assets auctioned off — notably including the very copyrights Righthaven sues over.

Attorneys at Randazza Legal Group in Las Vegas represent Wayne Hoehn, who was sued for copyright infringement by Righthaven but defeated Righthaven in court when the lawsuit was thrown out.

Since then the attorneys been trying to collect more than $63,000 in court-ordered legal fees and the federal court in Las Vegas on Nov. 1 ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to seize Righthaven assets to satisfy Hoehn’s judgment.

But in a Monday court filing, the Randazza attorneys said the Marshals so far have identified just one Righthaven monetary asset, its primary bank account containing less than $1,000.

So Randazza on Monday asked U.S. District Judge Philip Pro — who dismissed the suit against Hoehn on fair use and standing grounds — to appoint a receiver to which Righthaven would assign all of its intellectual property and other intangible property including its copyrights, trademark, website domain name and infringement-search software. The receiver would then auction these assets.

“Since Righthaven has refused to satisfy the judgment, Hoehn is entitled to force Righthaven’s property into receivership and then to auction. Hoehn now moves this court to enact the process that will allow him to (at least partially) satisfy his judgment through Righthaven’s only known assets — its intellectual property,” the Randazza attorney said in their filing.

A request for comment was placed with Righthaven.

The company has previously said it would fight attempts to seize its more than 250 copyrights and that judgment collection attempts could put it out of business or force it to file for bankruptcy. With no copyrights, Righthaven would have nothing to sue over should its standing to sue be revived.

Righthaven since March 2010 has sued Hoehn and 274 more websites, bloggers and message board posters claiming they infringed on copyrighted material from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post by posting it online without authorization. Lately the litigation campaign has stalled because six judges found Righthaven didn’t have standing to sue because it didn’t control the copyrights it was suing over. Three suits were dismissed on fair use grounds.

The lawsuits were filed without warning, a departure from the usual newspaper industry practice of trying to resolve copyright problems out of court.

While Righthaven was not required to issue takedown notices before suing, defense attorneys say the no-warning lawsuit tactic was aimed at shocking defendants into settling and that it undercut Righthaven’s own lawsuit claims of irreparable harm from the infringements.

That’s because Righthaven typically learned of infringements months before obtaining copyrights to the infringed material and filing suits — doing nothing in the interim to mitigate its damages such as asking that the infringing material be taken down.

But while Righthaven is regularly criticized for the no-warning suits, the company points out in its lawsuits that the defendants didn’t bother to call or e-mail the R-J or the Post to request permission to use the material at issue.

And Stephens Media LLC, owner of the R-J, has said the lawsuits were addressing a parasitic business model in which newspaper content is regularly infringed on.

Separately, the Randazza attorneys said Righthaven has become such an oddity in the copyright field that since news of the U.S. Marshals Service judgment execution writ has spread in news stories and across the Internet, they’ve received numerous requests for “various assets of Righthaven’s from journalists, other attorneys and those interested in intellectual property enforcement.”

“Among the requests I have received, I have been contacted by individuals seeking an opportunity to purchase or otherwise acquire Righthaven’s office artwork, office supplies such as staplers and lamps and other miscellaneous items from the company,” attorney J. Malcolm DeVoy IV wrote in a court declaration.

“Far and away, however, I have received the most requests for a Bluetooth headset worn by Righthaven’s CEO, Steven Gibson, in a photo originally published by the Las Vegas Sun in the summer of 2010,” he wrote.

“Based on this outpouring of interest in owning a piece of a famous organization such as Righthaven, and numerous discussions that others have initiated with me about the auctioning of Righthaven’s tangible and intangible assets, I strongly believe that a public auction of Righthaven’s assets would materially assist Righthaven in at least partially satisfying Hoehn’s judgment.” DeVoy wrote in his filing.

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  1. Considering that the argument for lack of standing with regard to the original SAA and the amended SAA was based upon "sham" copyright transfers, it could be problematic to say that Righthaven owns those copyrights now. The re-stated SAA, the one that is in effect now, might grant actual ownership, but no suits have been brought under it for some reason.

    If they claim that the re-stated SAA is controlling, then the only thing stopping RH from refiling several of the dismissed suits is that they were dismissed with prejudice because a judge held that RH is not allowed to correct the defects by changing the SAA retroactively.

    If it is held that RH does in fact own the copyrights based upon either the original or amended SAA then the argument that they lacked standing is undercut.

    This will open a can of worms. The best approach, in my (non-attorney) opinion, would be to only go after the porn film copyrights and other assets and not give any credence to the statement that RH owns the copyrights it sued over. It would be better to pierce the corporate veil and go after the Stephens family members who own half of RH for payment.

    Who would want Gibson's Bluetooth anyway? Would you really want to put that in you ear?

  2. boftx...

    "It would be better to pierce the corporate veil and go after the Stephens family members who own half of RH for payment."

    Don't forget about Uncle Shermie... he should be held separately & personally accountable for the creation of his little fiend, er...friend.
    He certainly has some ass-ets, no?
    Maybe even some property in Hawaii?
    Wasn't this Sherman's brilliant brainchild? Conceived at least in part as a personal 'revenue stream'?

    How about charging these clowns federally under the RICO Act?

    How does Righthatin' being an LLC affect potential claims against?

    You're right about that Bluetooth... that's DISGUSTING!
    http://www.crimeandfederalism.com/2011/0...

  3. There is no doubt now that Righthaven is hiding assets from the US marshals. BK may be a problem for Righthaven because it will force them to disclose all assets and bank accounts. If there is anything untowards in them it could open up the players to criminal investigations.

    Seizing the "copyrights" from Righthaven is important because it will take away their ability to ever use them again but more importantly it may stop Stephens Media from using them as well. Stephens Media may either have to come clean and admit the copyright assignments were a sham or risk losing them entirely.

  4. If they're "auctioned," perhaps I'll buy one and ask that the RJ remove the story from its archives.