Court tosses Righthaven fair use appeal
8 August 2012
Las Vegas copyright lawsuit company Righthaven LLC suffered another setback Wednesday when an appeals court dismissed one of its appeals.
The dismissal was requested by the nonprofit Center for Intercultural Organizing (CIO) in Portland, Ore., which won a key fair-use ruling last year against Righthaven.
The dismissal was granted Wednesday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which cited case law that appeared to back arguments by the CIO that Righthaven could no longer participate in the case since creditors had seized the copyrights it sues over. In layman’s terms, the CIO argued Righthaven no longer had a dog in the fight so the fight was over.
Righthaven, a company that worked with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post to sue alleged infringers of content from those newspapers, filed 275 no-warning lawsuits in 2010 and 2011.
That was a departure for the newspaper industry, which usually tries to resolve copyright problems out of court before resorting to lawsuits.
The litigation campaign ended when Righthaven said it ran out of cash after a series of rulings finding it lacked standing to sue as a copyright assignee; or that defendants were protected by the fair use concept of copyright law.
One of its significant fair use losses came last year when U.S. District Judge James Mahan in Las Vegas said the CIO was protected by fair use in posting on its website an entire R-J story without authorization.
Righthaven appealed. The CIO said the appeal should be dismissed as being moot since creditors had seized Righthaven’s copyrights, meaning Righthaven lacked standing.
Righthaven didn’t oppose the dismissal motion.
"Appellees' (the CIO’s) unopposed motion to dismiss this appeal as moot is granted," the court wrote in a two-sentence order Wednesday citing previous case law about factors that make a legal issue moot.
Despite the lack of detailed analysis in Wednesday’s order, attorneys noted that the bottom line is that Mahan’s fair use ruling will stand and that the CIO continues to be the prevailing party in the litigation.
Separately, Nevada judges dismissed seven more Righthaven lawsuits between July 20 and July 24 after Righthaven failed to prosecute them because of its lack of resources and the rulings against it in other cases.
The suits dismissed were against Vannix Communications Group Inc., VXPOSE LLC, Justmeans, Motown Muscle, Inform Technologies, Extreme DUI and Connie Hippen.
This means that of Righthaven’s 275 lawsuits filed in three states since March 2010, just 17 remain open — all in Nevada.
They’ll all likely be dismissed for lack of prosecution unless Las Vegas attorney Steven Gibson, who still claims to be Righthaven’s CEO, is successful in getting the 9th Circuit to revive Righthaven’s standing to sue.
Despite Righthaven saying it has no cash or assets, Gibson has been prosecuting another appeal at the 9th Circuit — an action opposed by the receiver of Righthaven’s assets.
U.S. District Judge Philip Pro in Las Vegas has set an Oct. 9 hearing on Gibson’s objection to a move by the receiver of Righthaven’s assets to fire Gibson as CEO and to put a halt to Righthaven’s appeals at the 9th Circuit.
The receiver was appointed to seize and sell Righthaven assets after the company couldn’t, or wouldn’t, pay $34,045 in fees awarded to a defendant that beat the Righthaven lawsuit against him.
In all, Righthaven has been ordered to pay $318,000 in fees to defendants that defeated it in court.
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