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The Almighty Buck The Courts The Media

Copyright Troll Righthaven Ordered To Pay $119,000 75

Posted by timothy
from the why-don't-they-make-it-out-to-me? dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Steve Green reports that newspaper copyright infringement lawsuit filer Righthaven of Las Vegas has been hit with an order to pay $119,488 in attorney's fees and costs in its failed lawsuit against former federal prosecutor Thomas DiBiase, who was sued over allegations he posted a story without authorization on a murder case by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. US District Judge Roger Hunt dismissed Righthaven's suit against DiBiase this summer because Righthaven lacked standing to sue him under its flawed lawsuit contract with R-J owner Stephens Media. The DiBiase case was noteworthy because his attorneys at the EFF said DiBiase's nonprofit website, 'No Body Murder Cases,' performed a public service by assisting law enforcement officials in bringing justice to crime victims — and that his post was protected by the fair use concept of copyright law. Case law created by the Righthaven lawsuits suggests DiBiase's use of the story would be protected by fair use as it was noncommercial and judges have found there can be no market harm to Righthaven for such uses since there is no market for copyrights Righthaven obtains for lawsuit purposes. Although this was by far the largest fee award against Righthaven, it will likely will be dwarfed by an upcoming award in Righthaven's failed suit against the Democratic Underground."
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Copyright Troll Righthaven Ordered To Pay $119,000

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  • Mixed news (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Myopic (18616) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @05:01PM (#37862028)

    This is great! I'm happy to have this decision, but I wish the ruling were on the merits instead of being dismissed for lack of standing.

    • Re:Mixed news (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Thursday October 27, 2011 @05:03PM (#37862048)

      but I wish the ruling were on the merits instead of being dismissed for lack of standing.

      In this case, those *are* the merits.

      • Standing is a very important issue. You need to have some kind of rules governing who's allowed to sue over what sorts of incidents. Basically, there should only ever be at most a single lawsuit covering any given topic. If there are ever two lawsuits in different courts over the exact same issue, and they issue conflicting rulings, what happens? The answer is "that must not ever happen".

        Even small kids are good at causing trouble when this rule isn't in place - "well, Dad said no ... so I'm gonna go a
    • Re:Mixed news (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @05:13PM (#37862156)
      No it is better this way. It is a ruling against the business model of being a troll. If argued on the merits this guy could of lost. It sounds like he cut and pasted a story onto his blog. Not the best way to run a blog. Kinda of sloppy when it just takes a few minutes to write up your own opinion with a few quotes from the original. Cut and Pasters don't deserve big lawsuits against them. But they are not perfectly innocent either.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        This is what a friend of mine learned from his family.

        When you're going to ask for something, the "no" answer is granted. You only run the risk of getting a "yes", which is a positive thing. It follows that, in the general case, it never pays off being pessimistic (actually, "asking for" has other consequences which might be undesirable, but let's ignore that for the sake of the argument).

        So, should a troll be quiet or menacing? Launch a suit or what?

        Naturally, these parasites will never see the color of th

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Sorry but even if he copypasta'd the whole thing it would have still be covered under fair use since it was a non profit public service. Sorry i can't remember the case ATM but I believe it was in Oregon that the precedent was set that even copying a whole article was considered fair use if it was for a non commercial public service. In that case IIRC the article was over an issue that they were organizing against and the judge ruled they were simply gathering data to a single point so they could better adv

  • by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @05:10PM (#37862128) Journal

    lawsuit against former federal prosecutor

    That was their first mistake.

    • No it wasn't. Their first mistake was ... being a troll. They weren't born that way.

    • Their first mistake was to think that it's enough to found a patent troll company and think that it's the get rich quick scheme of the new millenium. You still have to know what you're doing.

      But it's nice to see the troll getting slaughtered for a change. Sadly, if D&D taught me anything, they regenerate fairly quickly. Gotta burn them to ashes for them to be gone.

      • by Kalriath (849904)

        Copyright != Patent.

      • Sadly, if D&D taught me anything, they regenerate fairly quickly. Gotta burn them to ashes for them to be gone.

        Funny that, since NetHack taught me it's easiest to just eat their corpses (or feed them to my pets)... as an added bonus, it'd scare the bejeezus out of their fellow trolls as well.

    • Yeah seriously, what were they thinking? They obviously don't understand their own business model.
      When you are making legal threats of questionable validity, you pick people who will cave to your threats and just pay up, you don't target an accomplished trial lawyer.

      Did anyone at Righthaven even bother google this guy before they sued him? You don't even have to click any of links as Google is kind enough to give the following summary of the number one search result for Thomas DiBiase:

      In other news, assistant U.S. attorney Thomas “Tad” DiBiase has stepped down. Readers will recall that DiBiase is “the ‘Kevin Bacon’ of high-powered D.C. legal...

      That one and a hal

      • by surgen (1145449)

        In other news, assistant U.S. attorney Thomas “Tad” DiBiase has stepped down. Readers will recall that DiBiase is “the ‘Kevin Bacon’ of high-powered D.C. legal...

        That one and a half sentence summary ought to be enough to raise multiple red flags to anyone considering pulling some legal bullying on this guy.

        Maybe Righthaven just wanted a lower DiBiase number?

  • by gstrickler (920733) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @05:15PM (#37862180)

    ...the smell of trolls roasting on an open fire?

  • Except, since Righthaven is just a copyright troll and doesn't actually have any assets to speak of - good luck collecting...
    • by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @05:41PM (#37862394)
      They are aiming at collecting from the newspapers. Defendents are filing motions that Righthaven was involved in the unauthorized practice of law. Basically the argument is that Righthaven is really a lawfirm representing newspapers in copyright cases on a contingency fee. That the contracts were an illegal attempt to shield the newspapers from liability. This ruling support that argument.
      • by SharpFang (651121)

        I don't think you can have it both ways: either Righthaven had no revenue that could be damaged by the publication (and there's nothing to be collected), or it served as a service for the newspapers and if their revenue is to be drained through fee collection, and that's the revenue that could be damaged.

        • I am not sure what you are arguing. I am stating

          A) Rightshaven had no right to bring lawsuits against infringers because their contracts with newspapers were illegal.

          B) Because the lawsuits were illegal the defendant is owed attorney fees from the plaintiff.

          C) The actual plaintiff in these cases is not Righthaven but the newspapers that hired them.

          D) So the defendants will collect attorney fees from the newspapers.

          • by ejasons (205408)

            C) The actual plaintiff in these cases is not Righthaven but the newspapers that hired them.

            I think that the parent is suggesting that, if this is decided to be the case, then the lawsuit did have merit, as the plaintiffs owned the copyright.

            Conversely, since the judge decided that the plaintiffs didn't have standing, then the plaintiffs cannot be the copyright owners.

            A bit of a catch-22 situation there...

            • IANAL, but it's a bit less clear than that. The newspapers contracted with Righthaven to pursue infringement cases on their behalf. However, the newspapers never transferred the copyrights to Righthaven, therefore, Righthaven had no standing AS the plaintiff. However, as a law firm, Righthaven did have the right to file the suits under the direction of or as an agent of the newspapers using the newspaper (copyright holder) as the plaintiff. The contract between Righthaven and the newspapers *could* be const

          • by SharpFang (651121)

            Actually, these contracts weren't illegal, just insufficient for the intended purpose.
            If Righthaven purchased whole copyright to the article, fair and square, including revenue from licensing/publication, they would have a pretty firm standing (still, they would probably lose on fair use grounds, but not nearly THAT easily).

            But they skimped on money and purchased only right to sue for damages of revenue. Which is legal but retarded since if you don't own any rights outside the right to sue:

            • I think that depends on motive. If the motive was stupidity then it was legal. If the motive was hide who the plaintiff was then they possibly defrauded the defendant or perjured themselves in court.
            • ... the plaintiff must prove fair use to escape the verdict (which would still lead to "innocent, but each side pays their own lawyers").

              Not necessarily so. In Lenz v Universal Music [], the judge ruled that the copyright holder must consider fair use before issuing a takedown notice, which would imply they must do so before filing suit. Because UM didn't do that, Lenz' countersuit for misrepresentation of copyright was allowed to proceed. The logical extension of that is that if the copyright holder either fails to consider fair use, or considers it and incorrectly files suit when it's a clear example of fair use (e.g. they didn't use any due

    • Pierce the corporate/LLC veil (they engaged in illegal activity) and go after the principals personal assets.

  • More than repaying costs of defence, the plaintiffs of frivolous lawsuits need to be made to pay punitive damages of 3 to 10 times the costs. This will help these kinds of cases to go away.
    • I like your idea, but rather than that, they are to pay punitive damages, triple what they were seeking as "damages".

    • by PRMan (959735)
      Except that it won't. They are trying to declare bankruptcy to avoid paying anything to anyone.
      • Some are trying to convince a judge that Righthaven is really a lawfirm for the newspaper instead of the actual plaintiff. If they can do that it doesn't matter if Righthaven goes bankrupt. They can collect from the newspaper. Another tactic is to seize the copyrights as an asset.
      • by Fluffeh (1273756)

        Yeah, but I am pretty sure that one of the judges actually declared their "parent" companies as liable as the only business that RH was doing was on their behalf. He stated that the RH business was an extension of the media companies as as such, they were liable for damages and bills that RH incurred. Simply declaring RH bankrupt won't be enough to stop the media companies forking out what is owed. It will make it a little harder, but not impossible.

      • Seems like there should be a way to claim gross negligence and professional misconduct on the part of the partners of Righthaven, and use that as a basis for personal/professional liability against them as well as their corporation/partnership. It works that way for other professionals, I suspect it's possible (depending on state law, of course) with lawyers, too. Of course, they should also have their licenses revoked, but that's a different story.

    • by jd (1658)

      Only if they have money.

      There are ways to circumvent that, of course - abolish the concept of a corporation as a person, treat all copyrights owned by them as assets that can be seized, and if the sum value so seized is less than the money owed, seize assets of management (within bounds, an individual should never be sued beyond the ability to function as an individual) including the business license for the corporation. If it's still less, ban all members of management from holding management positions or

      • The problem is that you don't know which management to sue. The one that started the suit? The one that was in power in the middle, or the one that was in command when the suit was thrown out?

        The better way to handle this would be to eliminate the limited liability of a corporation. Make the stockholders liable for any debts not covered by the bankruptcy sell-off, but at the same time make the management liable for any liabilities not disclosed in a quarterly report.

        Doing this would fix so many things. The

        • by Bucky24 (1943328)

          The better way to handle this would be to eliminate the limited liability of a corporation.

          This idea has been discussed before. Sure, it would punish those making the choices (the shareholders), but then again, it would publish the shareholders. Do you have an IRA? Or invest in a mutual fund? A lot of people do, and removing limited liability could cause a lot of them to lose their life savings in some stupid copyright lawsuit that they likely don't even know about (especially if someone else is managing their investments).

          make the management liable for any liabilities not disclosed in a quarterly report.

          I agree that this is an excellent idea.

      • by jd2112 (1535857)

        Only if they have money.

        There are ways to circumvent that, of course - abolish the concept of a corporation as a person,

        If a corporation is a person, wouldn't dissolving a corporation be murder?

    • One Britney Spears song should cover that at $150,000 right?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's *Thomas* DiBiase running that website? Oh sorry, we thought it was "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase [] running it. Sorry. - Righthaven.

    Oh no, we don't target the big guys, we were right all along because we DO only target little guys. Remember that Ars Technica [] "clerical error"? Sorry. - Righthaven.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps it is time for a Digital Millennium Fair Use Act (DMFUA)?

  • I mean, let's be honest here. Even the worst patent troll is prone to hit a target that doesn't defend but rather settle, at least from time to time. Only thing about RH we get to hear is being shot down time and again. What are they actually trying to achieve?

    Well if it's "don't fear the troll, fight him and you shall receive"... Mission accomplished!

    • by 517714 (762276)
      One point that comes to mind is that accountants are worse (more evil) than lawyers. An accountant will calculate the cost of losing times the chances of losing and choose to settle when that product is less than the offered settlement. A lawyer will not feed a troll who isn't his client.
  • I think this is good, but they are getting off too cheap.
    The 'payback' on IP trolls should be painful, bloody, and AT LEAST crippling, at the minimum.
    But it's a start....

  • The real fun starts when one of these counter-plaintiffs puts in a motion to pierce the veil, and it's coming.

No problem is insoluble in all conceivable circumstances.