Nonprofit: Lack of copyrights thwarts Righthaven appeal
7 June 2012
An Oregon nonprofit group asked a court Thursday to dismiss one of the Righthaven LLC copyright lawsuit appeals, saying Righthaven can no longer participate in the case since it’s been stripped of its copyrights.
Las Vegas-based Righthaven obtained copyrights from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post and then sued 275 alleged infringers of material from those newspapers in 2010 and 2011.
Its no-warning lawsuit campaign, unprecedented for the newspaper industry in recent times, was shut down when judges found Righthaven lacked standing to sue because of flawed and ineffective copyright assignments.
Some cases were also dismissed on fair-use grounds.
Thursday’s court action involved the Center for Intercultural Organizing (CIO) in Portland, which was sued for, without authorization, copying an entire R-J story and posting it on its website.
U.S. District Judge James Mahan in Las Vegas dismissed the suit, ruling the CIO was protected by fair use in its reproduction of the story.
As a nonprofit, the CIO couldn’t have harmed Righthaven or the market for the story since Righthaven used copyrights only for lawsuits — meaning there was no market, Mahan said in his order.
Mahan also found news reporting was subject to less copyright protection than more creative works.
After Righthaven appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the company essentially shut down, though it’s still prosecuting at least one of its appeals.
The company collapsed after it ran into financial trouble and what's known of its remaining assets, including 278 federal copyright registrations, were turned over to a receiver for auction.
No one bid for some non-newspaper Righthaven copyrights last month and it’s unclear how or whether they’ll be sold.
Also, a single copyright to an R-J editorial that was put up for auction was withdrawn from last month’s sale for undisclosed reasons —– an indication Righthaven or the R-J may have threatened legal action over efforts to sell a Righthaven copyright to the R-J editorial.
Despite these problems, attorneys for the CIO told the 9th Circuit in a brief Thursday that the CIO appeal should be dismissed because of Righthaven’s lack of ownership to the copyright at issue in the CIO lawsuit and appeal.
''Given the fact that the appellant (Righthaven) no longer owns any pecuniary interest in the copyright at issue, appellant has no standing to pursue this appeal because the substance of the appeal has been rendered moot,'' said the filing by attorneys at the Las Vegas law firm Olson, Cannon, Gormley & Desruisseaux.
The attorneys also took a shot at Righthaven’s business model.
While Righthaven and the R-J have said the lawsuits were needed to crack down on rampant copyright infringement of newspaper content, critics said Righthaven was just trying to make money by hitting unsuspecting bloggers, message-board posters and website owners with suits threatening to seize their website domain names and demanding up to $150,000 in damages.
''Appellant (Righthaven) unabashedly and systematically utilized assignments of copyrights to further their business model of copyright trolling. Appellant utilized the limited ownership rights in the copyrights solely to file lawsuits in Nevada Federal District Court in hope of extracting settlements from website owners and bloggers,'' the CIO attorneys said in their filing.
Righthaven hasn’t responded to this motion and it’s not known when the court will rule on it.
Separately involving Righthaven:
• A spokesman for the State Bar of Nevada this week said the agency is still working on an inquiry related to grievances filed by unidentified parties against Righthaven CEO Steven Gibson and two other former Righthaven attorneys. It’s not known when those grievances will be resolved. The formal grievance files were opened in January, though the nature of the allegations hasn’t been disclosed.
• A judge in Reno last week dismissed a July 2011 Righthaven lawsuit against Dean Mostofi after Righthaven failed to prosecute it.
This was the second Righthaven suit against Mostofi — the first suit was dismissed due to Righthaven’s lack of standing. The second suit was based on an updated lawsuit contract with the Review-Journal that was aimed at beefing up Righthaven’s copyright ownership claim, but Righthaven didn’t prosecute the new suit.
• A judge in Las Vegas on Wednesday dismissed a Righthaven suit against Jane Smith and subliminalselfhypnosis.com after Righthaven failed to prosecute it.
• Stephens Media LLC, owner of the R-J, and Righthaven defendant the Democratic Underground settled a motion requesting that Stephens Media pay $774,000 in attorney’s fees to the Democratic Underground attorneys.
The fees were requested in a Democratic Underground counterclaim resulting in a ruling finding the Democratic Underground was protected by fair use in posting an R-J story excerpt without authorization. The settlement was disclosed May 25, but its terms have not been revealed.
The Democratic Underground, which defeated Righthaven in Righthaven’s lawsuit against it, is still seeking $131,457 in fees from Righthaven.
In initially filing the fee request, the Democratic Underground said $131,457 was for work specifically involving Righthaven, $94,143 was attributed to fighting Stephens Media and that $549,082 involved both Stephens Media and Righthaven.
A Stephens Media affiliate owns half of Righthaven.
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