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The Courts The Media

Judge Reveals Secret Righthaven Copyright Contract 130

Posted by timothy
from the limited-separability-corporation dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Judge Roger Hunt has unsealed the confidential agreement between Righthaven and the Las Vegas Review-Journal that has allowed Righthaven to sue over more than 250 charities, impoverished hobby bloggers, reporters, and the newspaper's own sources, for $150,000 each in damages and forfeiture of the sites' domain names, and the contents of the agreement could end up being ruinous for Righthaven's campaign of copyright lawsuits. The problem is that Stephens Media, the company that owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal, didn't actually assign any of the rights related to copyright to Righthaven except the right to sue — and that has been found in Silvers vs. Sony Pictures to be illegal under case law. In other words, none of the important things that come with a copyright — such as the right to make copies of a work, or distribute it, or make 'derivative works' — were handed off to Righthaven. Only the right to sue was given, and that makes the copyright transfer bogus, argue lawyers for the Democratic Underground, which is being sued for one of its website users posting the first four paragraphs of a 34 paragraph story."
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Judge Reveals Secret Righthaven Copyright Contract

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  • by mfarah (231411) <`lc.haraf' `ta' `leugim'> on Sunday April 17, 2011 @07:33AM (#35846974) Homepage

    "Angered at Righthaven’s behavior, a Las Vegas federal judge unsealed the company’s heretofore confidential agreement [...]"

    Not that I'm complaining, but... what did Righthaven do to anger the judge? Were their lawyers being dicks? Was the contract itself what angered the judge? Truly, I'd like to know.

  • pounding sand (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Sunday April 17, 2011 @08:28AM (#35847274) Journal

    Sounds like Righthaven is very, very wrong. So wrong that they might have to pay the defendents' legal costs. From my limited understanding of the legal system, only exceptionally unwarranted cases, cases with no legitimate basis that were only brought to scare, harrass, and damage other parties, are subject to such sanctions. Except they don't have the assets to pay those costs. Strikes me as a sneaky way to shield the real prosecutors from such an outcome. Set up a shell company to do the dirty work and to fold like a house of cards if it backfires. But it looks like that's not going to work. The judge is not going to be fooled by this cute corporate trickery to evade responsiblity, and will rope the real prosecutors into the cases.

    If the outcome is that the newspapers have to pay for the damage their sock puppet corporation caused, will that be enough to deter others from ever again trying such a heinous scheme? I doubt it. For instance, MS wasn't punished for the mess SCO made. These newspapers will conclude that Righthaven wasn't circumspect enough, and may well try again with another organization that is less obviously their sock puppet, same as SCO was a real separate party that began with no MS affiliation or support.

  • by arth1 (260657) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @08:35AM (#35847324) Homepage Journal

    The whole point of trying to run a business with the sole purpose of making income by suing people is probably quite angering to judges. After all, courts are not meant to be used for business

    Indeed, judges wants judges and lawyers to have monopoly on making money on lawsuits.

    I have no problems with barring others from using the judicial system as a source of good income, but I do have an issue with how the golden business of lawyers makes a farce out of the blindness of the law by selling out to the highest bidder.
    How about... The sides in a court case are allowed to pitch in as much money as they want, but half of it will go to your opponent, to allow him to buy exactly as good legal advice as you do.

  • by gr8_phk (621180) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @08:59AM (#35847436)
    I thought the first thing one should do in a copyright case (as defendant) is have the plaintiff prove that they have the right to sue. That can not be given to them in a sealed document. If defendant can't see that document, there should be no case since that is the basis for the case. IANAL, but this seem pretty straight forward to me. It also makes sense that assigning the right to sue isn't enough, because that company has nothing to lose should you infringe - they haven't been harmed.
  • Interesting (Score:1, Interesting)

    by mysidia (191772) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @09:20AM (#35847528)

    Only the right to sue was given, and that makes the copyright transfer bogus, argue lawyers for the Democratic Underground, which is being sued for one of its website users posting the first four paragraphs of a 34 paragraph story."

    So they are suggesting that under Federal copyright law, the 'right to sue for claims of infringement due to X' cannot be assigned without also assigning an infringed right ?

    I wonder what this says about associations such as the **AA which sue people for infringement of their members' copyright works, but the **AA itself doesn't own any of the copyright protected rights to the works....

  • by v1 (525388) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @10:57AM (#35848154) Homepage Journal

    There was one quote from the judge that basically said the judge felt the plaintiffs proceeded with litigation while knowing that neither the facts nor the law were on their side. THAT will land you squarely in "frivolous lawsuit land" and piss off the judge real quick.

    Basically, cavalierly wasting the court and judge's time is a very bad legal strategy.

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