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The Demise of Righthaven Litigations May Finally Have Arrived

By Joel L. Hecker

Most of you are probably familiar with the saga of the litigations brought by Righthaven, LLC, a Nevada limited liability company wherein Righthaven filed in excess of 250 lawsuits for copyright infringement with many of them being brought in the United States District Court, District of Nevada.

The business model for Righthaven was to acquire certain rights from its affiliate, Stephens Media, LLC, which owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a newspaper located in Nevada. Righthaven then would basically commence copyright infringement litigation against website owners and others, accusing them of copyright infringement in connection with alleged improper uses of the news articles first appearing in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The lawsuits were usually commenced without any previous contact or attempt to negotiate a cease and desist of the allegedly infringing material. Many of the cases were immediately settled because of the cost to defendants in opposing them. This business model has been called nothing less than a blatant money-making venture and not a legitimate attempt at copyright protection. It has acquired the perhaps unflattering nickname of "copyright troll suits".

The judges in the District Court of Nevada in effect finally put a stop to Righthaven's activities by first questioning the legitimacy of Righthaven's claim of copyright ownership and by ruling in the few cases that were actually litigated that the uses in such cases were in fact fair uses.

On November 1, 2011, in what may be one of the final acts in this Righthaven saga, pursuant to an order in Righthaven LLC v. Wayne Hoehn, case number 2:11-cv-00050, of the District Court of Nevada, the clerk of the court issued a writ of execution against Righthaven in the sum of $63,720.80. This writ was issued on a motion of Mr. Hoehn, who successfully defended the case resulting in a decision that use of a newspaper article in his blog was, in fact, a fair use of the material and, in addition and perhaps more important, that Righthaven never owned the underlying copyright in the first place and therefore lacked standing to bring the action.

In another case in Nevada which Righthaven lost, the court assessed a substantial amount against Righthaven for legal fees incurred by the defendant.

All in all, with Righthaven's losing any sense of legitimacy for its business model, judicial decisions holding that it does not have standing to bring these "troll" actions, and the substantial judgments being entered against it, we have undoubtedly seen the end of these copyright trolls.

Joel L. Hecker, Of Counsel to Russo & Burke, 600 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016, practices in every aspect of photography and visual arts law, including copyright, licensing, publishing, contracts, privacy rights, and other intellectual property issues. He can be reached at (212) 557-9600, website www.RussoandBurke.com, or via email: HeckerEsq@aol.com.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 10, 2011 9:52 PM.

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