Righthaven LLC, the Las Vegas copyright infringement lawsuit filer, was ordered Thursday to pay $131,457 in attorney's fees to a defendant that prevailed against Righthaven in court.
U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt in Las Vegas ordered that Righthaven pay the fees to attorneys for the Democratic Underground, a political website operator in the Washington, D.C., area.
The order lifts to $318,138 the amount Righthaven has been ordered to pay copyright defendants in Righthaven cases in Nevada and Colorado.
Defendants haven't had much success so far in recovering against these judgments, even after judges authorized the U.S. Marshals Service to seize its assets in two cases — and its intellectual property including copyrights was seized by a judge and placed in the hands of a receiver for auction.
After Righthaven essentially shut down amid its legal setbacks and the apparent refusal of its investors to pump more cash into the company, the only assets sold so far for the benefit of creditors are its website domain name for $3,300 and its trademark for $1,025.
Righthaven beginning in March 2010 filed no-warning copyright infringement lawsuits after obtaining copyrights for lawsuit purposes from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post, both of which hoped to share in lawsuit revenue.
But after filing 275 lawsuits in three states, Righthaven's litigation campaign fell apart when judges ruled the suits were flawed because of faulty copyright assignments that left the newspapers in control of material Righthaven was suing over. That's a situation not allowed under copyright law, judges ruled. In some cases, defendants like the Democratic Underground were also cleared by the fair use doctrine of copyright law.
In the Democratic Underground case, Righthaven didn't respond to its attorney's fee request. In fact, the only sign of life at Righthaven in recent months is that it may continue pursuing at least one of its appeals of its legal setbacks.
Hunt, in his order Thursday, said that even if Righthaven had responded to the fee request, his ruling would have been the same under case law awarding fees to certain prevailing defendants in copyright lawsuits.
The Democratic Underground was represented by attorneys at and affiliated with the digital freedom group the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.
In their fee request, Democratic Underground attorneys said the company had been hit with a ''shakedown'' copyright infringement lawsuit that threatened the free speech rights of the political website. The lawsuit involved a post on a message board by a Democratic Underground user of the first four paragraphs of a 34-paragraph R-J story about then-U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle.
The post credited the information to the R-J and linked to the R-J website — a post many newspapers would welcome, as it would boost visitor traffic to their site.
Righthaven and the R-J, however, said the Righthaven suits were needed to deter rampant online theft of newspaper content.
The Democratic Underground initially sought $774,683 in fees in the case, including fees related to a counterclaim against Stephens Media LLC, owner of the R-J.
The fee request against Stephens Media — whose owners invested in Righthaven — was settled under undisclosed terms.
Separately, three Righthaven infringement suits in Las Vegas were dismissed Monday by Hunt after Righthaven failed to prosecute them.
One was against Neil Brommell and Holly Brewer; the other two were against Danny Downey and Brett Edmunds.
This leaves just 24 of its lawsuits open, all in Nevada, not counting four appeals that are open.
Of the 24 suits still open in U.S. District Court for Nevada, all appear to be headed toward dismissal given Righthaven's lack of interest in pursuing them after its legal setbacks.