The CEO of copyright lawsuit filer Righthaven LLC is complaining that he's the victim of ''unconscionable'' ambush tactics by opposing attorneys in one of several lawsuits filed by the company.
Steven Gibson, who is facing a fine of $500 per day over Righthaven's failure to turn over financial information in the case, says the attorneys are unfairly trying to pin the blame on him for not producing the data. He claims the responsibility lies not with him or the company but with an attorney who has represented Righthaven, Shawn Mangano.
''Mangano should be ordered to comply with this court’s orders and be ordered to professionally represent Righthaven,'' Gibson wrote in a court filing Monday, adding he agrees the opposing attorneys and the client they're representing should receive the financial information the court has ordered Righthaven to provide.
Las Vegas-based Righthaven is the copyright enforcement partner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and formerly of the Denver Post.
After filing 275 no-warning copyright infringement lawsuits since March 2010, Righthaven appears to be on the verge of collapse after running out of money and losing key court rulings.
The court rulings found that Righthaven either lacked standing to sue or that defendants were protected by fair use in their copying and reposting of material from the R-J and the Denver Post.
While the R-J and Righthaven have said the suits were needed to crack down on rampant copyright infringement, critics said the suits were an abuse of the court system.
They said Righthaven — which is a company, not a law firm — made false statements and dubious legal arguments in order to coerce defendants into settling.
With Righthaven lately saying it’s unable to pay its creditors, some defendants who defeated Righthaven in court and are owed attorney’s fees have seized Righthaven assets so they can be auctioned.
In the case that prompted Gibson's filing on Monday, attorneys for one such creditor, Thomas DiBiase, say Righthaven has failed to turn over required financial information so DiBiase can determine if it has additional assets he can seize.
DiBiase's attorneys are seeking to have the court impose the daily fine on Righthaven and its officers, including Gibson, for failure to turn over the information, which includes a transcript of a debtor’s examination that attorneys in a different case took of Gibson and his wife.
Gibson said in Monday's filing that the failure of Righthaven’s outside Las Vegas attorney, Mangano, to turn over the information must be blamed on Mangano — not on Righthaven or Gibson.
Like defense attorneys and court clerks, Gibson said he hadn't been able to contact Mangano, hadn’t heard from Mangano since last month and didn’t know why Mangano appeared to have stopped representing Righthaven.
Gibson said in Monday’s court declaration that as the CEO of Righthaven, he is not in a position to turn over that transcript as it’s likely in Mangano’s possession.
''Given the professional irresponsibility of Mangano, it appears rather dubious that Righthaven should be sanctioned. Mangano’s failure is not Righthaven’s failure and certainly not mine,'' Gibson wrote in his filing.
Gibson also wrote that DiBiase’s attorneys at the digital freedom group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in San Francisco had wrongly targeted him in their motion seeking to find Righthaven in contempt of court for failing to turn over the information and asking the federal court in Las Vegas to fine Righthaven and its officers $500 per day.
Gibson said he had received no formal notice of this attempt to target him for the sanctions, but rather ''only by happenstance received notice'' of the proposed fine against him.
''Opposing counsels’ attempted ambush tactics of having me become personally liable without any direct notice is unconscionable,'' Gibson wrote in his filing.
Gibson’s filing is likely to produce a new round of criticism of him by the EFF, which has fought and defeated Righthaven in multiple cases.
EFF attorneys said in a February court filing that Gibson should be held personally liable for sanctions because in the past, ''sanctions payable to the court have not been effective against Righthaven.''
They said, for instance, that even after Righthaven was fined $5,000 last summer by U.S. District Court Judge Roger Hunt for misleading the court, Righthaven didn’t pay the $5,000 and ''ignored Judge Hunt’s sanctions order.''
Kurt Opsahl, the lead EFF attorney litigating against Righthaven, has been particularly critical of Gibson.
In a July court filing, Opsahl said Righthaven had ''tarnished the integrity of the justice system'' and that Gibson was personally responsible for misrepresentations to the court that resulted in the $5,000 fine.
While Gibson was an attorney of record for Righthaven in many of its early lawsuits, including the suit against DiBiase, Gibson eventually turned over Righthaven’s day-to-day litigation chores to Mangano and other staff and outside attorneys.
Despite recent media reports suggesting Gibson recently went to work for the Las Vegas office of Detroit law firm Dickinson Wright PLLC, he in fact has been with the firm since August 2010.
That’s when Dickinson Wright expanded to Las Vegas by buying Gibson’s old law firm Gibson Lowry Burris LLP.
Righthaven for the most part has been a side job for Gibson, who throughout the Righthaven litigation campaign has maintained a separate legal practice at Gibson Lowry Burris and then at Dickinson Wright.