RightHaven Loses Copyright Troll Suit in Colorado

U.S. Senior District Court Judge John Kane has granted summary judgment to a blogger-defendant in a copyright infingement lawsuit filed by Righthaven. The opinion is here.

Kane also ordered Righthaven to pay the blogger's legal fees and costs, which undoubtedly will be tens of thousands of dollars.

Righthaven filed 57 lawsuits in Colorado and 275 nationally. When it said these dismissal rulings might cause it to file bankruptcy, one enterprising blogger-defendant in Nevada filed a motion asking it be allowed to "seize Righthaven’s “bank accounts, real and personal property, and intangible intellectual property rights” so the company can't just "slither away." Another blogger is planning to go after Stephens Media. [More...]

Media News Group, which includes the Denver Post, last month bowed out of Righthaven, calling it a "dumb idea."

The basis for Judge Kane's ruling, according to MediaPost:

U.S. District Court Judge John Kane said that Righthaven lacked standing to sue because it didn't obtain the right to license the material from The Denver Post's parent company, MediaNews Group. Instead, Righthaven only obtained the ability to bring infringement lawsuits. But companies can't sue for infringement unless they also can sell or license the material, Kane ruled on Tuesday in a decision dismissing a lawsuit against Leland Wolf, who operated the It Makes Sense blog.

Righthaven has amended its assignment agreements with R-J, Stephens Media LLC to obtain full rights. It hasn't brought a suit in two months. Will the amended contract make a difference to courts which have ruled it lacks standing?

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  • Display: Sort:
    Champerty (none / 0) (#1)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 02:34:28 PM EST
    Is that a claim under Colorado law?

    Colorado (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 04:47:17 PM EST
    strongly disfavors maintenance and champerty. But these lawsuits are under  federal law.


    "Champerty" is the "maintenance" of a person in a lawsuit on condition that the subject matter of the action is to be shared with the maintainer. Among laypersons, this is known as "buying into someone else's lawsuit."

    I think it's a common law doctrine but I never heard of it before today.


    I looks to me like it only applies to lawyers (none / 0) (#4)
    by magster on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 05:40:43 PM EST
    with the most notable exception to it being allowing a contingency fee. Righthaven is a client (right?), so I wouldn't think Righthaven getting a license in the written product would be a problem.

    And, I too was "champ-a-whatta?"


    I think it might be a good idea if one could sell (none / 0) (#6)
    by BobTinKY on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 06:13:26 PM EST
    his or her cause of action.  It would level the playing field and allow an aggrieved party of lesser means to obtain redress from a more well heeled person, corporate or otherwise.

    Why not write up the claim, have its value assessed & appraised by legal experts as the suit proceeds, and listed on an exchange?  Why should a poorer individual forego even the attempt to obtain remedy due to an inability to pay for an attorney & other fees necessary to get the ball rolling?  Why should the defendant's settlement offer be the only offer to buy out a claim?  Why shouldn't a plaintiff have the benefit of competing offers to more accurately value the lawsuit?  I think it would reduce crowded court dockets and result in more justice.  Weaker claims would not be worth anything and would not be pursued.  Claims with merit would be valued.

    Frivolous claims would be dismissed, any claim not dismissed is by definition not frivolous.

    Champertry seems a medieval version of tort reform designed to protect the job creating class who can always afford lawyers when they are injured, but who never want to be held accountable for any injuries they might impose on others.


    Lawsuits Futures (none / 0) (#7)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 10:28:04 PM EST
    Now there's a concept!

    And a good idea.


    Very instructive opinion, good analysis. (none / 0) (#2)
    by BobTinKY on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 04:26:51 PM EST
    if the amended agreement provides Righthaven with ownership of one or more of the rights in Section 106, then this court would, if I am following the opinion, view Righthaven as having standing now to sue. There may still be an issue if the right or rights transferred are non-exclusive, which would seem possible given the trouble the assignor went to the first time to insure it retained its copyright. However, "assignment" suggests ownership transfer to me, not license, so if that is the correct characterization of the amendments there is probably a stronger  argument for standing.

    Like the result (none / 0) (#5)
    by BobTinKY on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 06:01:40 PM EST
    not sure about the Judge's reasoning.  While at a high level copyright provides public access, in the sense that without the economic rewards an author/painter etc might not take the time & effort to fix his or her expression in a tangible medium for public consumption, copyright is all about the right to limit access.  Limit it to those who will pay for it.  Patents are about public access to an inventive idea, but copyright?

    In any event, absent some right that can be infringed like one of those in 106, there is no harm suffered by the plaintiff and thus no standing.


    Site violator (none / 0) (#9)
    by sj on Fri Sep 30, 2011 at 09:15:25 AM EST
    In a big way.