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The Courts The Media

Judge Puts Righthaven Cases In Colorado On Hold 36

Posted by timothy
from the just-a-minute-pardner dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Senior US District Judge John Kane says there are serious questions about the validity of Righthaven's copyright infringement lawsuits in Colorado, and has put them all on hold. Kane says the main case in which he'll rule on the jurisdiction issue is that of Righthaven defendant Leland Wolf, who was sued over a Denver Post TSA pat-down photo. Wolf's attorneys filed briefs saying that based on Righthaven's lawsuit contract with Review-Journal owner Stephens Media LLC, its lawsuit contract with the Post is likely similar, and that their contract doesn't give Righthaven standing to sue. 'Righthaven very likely is neither the owner nor exclusive holder of any rights in the copyrighted work underlying this lawsuit,' say attorneys for Wolf. 'As such, Righthaven has suffered no injury or other cognizable harm required for it to have standing.' Judge Kane says he wants to resolve that issue before proceeding. 'Because there are serious questions as to whether my exercise of subject matter jurisdiction over Righthaven's claim of copyright infringement is proper, I think it most prudent to stay the proceedings in all pending cases in this district in which Righthaven is the named plaintiff,' wrote Kane. 'Should I find that I lack subject matter jurisdiction over Righthaven's claim of copyright infringement, it is likely that I will be required to dismiss all pending actions.'"
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Judge Puts Righthaven Cases In Colorado On Hold

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  • Countersuit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Friday May 20, 2011 @08:25AM (#36190308)
    If all these cases are indeed thrown out, the defendants should be able to counter-sue not only Righthaven, but the newspapers that "contracted" (read: created) Righthaven. Because let's be honest, they created Righthaven for the sole purpose of lawsuits in an attempt to distance themselves from any litigation and possible losses. I'm willing to bet Righthaven has very little in way of actual assets or anything else of value with which to pay any judgements that went against them. Now, they might not be breaking the law, but they are certainly twisting it, bending it over, and raping it. They need to go after not just Righthaven, but the people behind it.
  • Wronghaven (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitaldc (879047) * on Friday May 20, 2011 @08:38AM (#36190428)
    It's a haven of wrongdoing!

    But seriously, if we are going to sue every website and blog for re-posting photos found on the web, the internet is going to have to shut down due to widespread copyright violations.
  • Re:Countersuit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moryath (553296) on Friday May 20, 2011 @08:53AM (#36190552)

    More likely is that "Righthaven" will simply run around jurisdiction-shopping till they find a bribable judge willing to rule in their favor, then refile all these lawsuits.

  • But that change would mean the various rights holders would need to initiate the suit, even if using Righthaven as their legal representation.

    From reading through the Righthaven contract that was made public about a month ago, it is very clear that the rights holders, while claiming to transfer copyright ownership to Righthaven for the sake or pursuing legal action or settlements, really did not intend to fully transfer copyright to Righthaven. There are so many clauses that cause copyright ownership to revert to the rights holders, and so many escape clauses for the rights holders, and limitiations on the transfer of rights, that judges are (imho, ianal) rightly questioning whether or not Righthaven has any legal standing at all.

    The relationship between the rights holders and Righthaven is something like this:

    i. The rights holder gives Righthaven a catalog of their copyright portfolio.
    2. Righthaven is told to seek out infringing use.
    3. When infringing use is identified, Righthaven is to request a transfer of copyright to Righthaven from the rights holder.
    4. As the copyright owner of record (contractually), Righthaven is then free to pursue whatever legal options or settlements they can negotiate, to recoup funds for infringing use. Such funds are eventually split between Righthaven and the original rights holder.
    5. After formal actions to resolve infringement incidents are resolved, Righthaven transfers copyright ownership back to the original rights holder.

    On the surface, it looks like a plain strategy. Courts have previously allowed new rights holders to sue for infringement that occurred before they gained the copyright (since the infringement potentially devalues the purchased asset), but the complexities and nuanes of the contract with Righthaven made it very clear that, while called a transfer of copyright, what transpired seems to be much more like a grant of license (since it is clear that the rights holders had no intention to fully give up their claim of copyright ownership to Righthaven). That final point, that the transfer of rights to Righthaven required that Righthaven eventually return them to the original rights holders, is probably what has judges thinking twice. I don't believe copyright was ever intended to be put on loan so that a specialty firm could then try to bully hundreds or thousands of accused individuals (who may or may not have been protected under "fair use" provisions of US copyright law) into quick settlements as a way to generate a revenue stream
  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Friday May 20, 2011 @11:29AM (#36192284)

    Bingo. It's an illegal attempt to shield assets in a legal proceeding. I'd like the judge to rule that the agreement is a legal work for hire contract and that LRJ is responsible for any counter damages.

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