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Righthaven Ordered To Forfeit Its Intellectual Property 62

Posted by Soulskill
from the chickens-coming-home-to-roost dept.
New submitter BenJCarter writes with an update on Righthaven, the company that tried to make a business model out of copyright trolling. According to Wired, "[Righthaven] was dealt a death blow on Tuesday by a federal judge who ordered the Las Vegas company to forfeit 'all of' its intellectual property and other 'intangible property' to settle its debts. ... U.S. District Judge Philip M. Pro of Nevada ordered Righthaven to surrender for auction the 278 copyrighted news articles that were the subject of its lawsuits. ... Righthaven's first client, Stephens Media of Las Vegas and operator of the Review-Journal, invested $500,000 into the Righthaven operation at its outset. With Judge Pro's ruling (PDF), the media company is losing financial control of hundreds of articles and photos. 'The irony of this? Perhaps those who buy the copyrights could issue DMCA notices to the Review-Journal stopping them from redistributing them?' [opposing lawyer Marc Randazza] said via an e-mail, citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act."
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Righthaven Ordered To Forfeit Its Intellectual Property

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  • Finally (Score:5, Funny)

    by Speeddymon (1666423) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:18AM (#39350991)
    Maybe all this nonsense with patent trolling will cease & desist ... pun intended.
    • Re:Finally (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sosume (680416) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:24AM (#39351043) Journal

      "Perhaps those who buy the copyrights could issue DMCA notices to the Review-Journal stopping them from redistributing them?'"
      This is pure gold!

      • Re:Finally (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Dorkmaster Flek (1013045) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:04AM (#39351317)
        In principle, yes, but I thought one of the strikes against them was that they didn't actually own the copyrights to anything they were suing over. They had the "right to sue" only, but the judges rules that you can't transfer only the "right to sue" of a copyright. It has to be the whole thing. If they don't actually own the copyrights, they don't have to forfeit anything.
        • by cduffy (652)

          In principle, yes, but I thought one of the strikes against them was that they didn't actually own the copyrights to anything they were suing over. They had the "right to sue" only, but the judges rules that you can't transfer only the "right to sue" of a copyright. It has to be the whole thing. If they don't actually own the copyrights, they don't have to forfeit anything.

          My impression was that they went back and got actual copyright transfers late in the game, after suffering several losses on this accoun

          • I didn't personally follow up on that, but if that is indeed the case, ouch. That means that news company effectively gave up their copyrights for nothing.
          • Re:Finally (Score:5, Interesting)

            by idontgno (624372) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:57AM (#39352607) Journal

            Um... I don't play much poker, but even I know that you don't raise heavily on a crap hand. You may think you're successfully bluffing, but you're not; that kind of mad-dog behavior is a tell.

            So, Righthaven and their corporate overlords went all-in on an 8-high no-pair hand and rightly lost their entire stake. Yaaaaay.

            • by shentino (1139071)

              More like they got shot in the ass when they got caught trying to pull an ace out of their sleeve.

        • If they don't actually own the copyrights, they don't have to forfeit anything.

          IANAL, and it sounds like that's how it would all work out in the end, but I'd still very much like to see some organization sue the assholes who were working with righthaven nonetheless. Out of spite. Let this be a lesson to any company that tries to do similar greedy things. The price for companies trying to use IP laws as a gun to mug the public should be the gun gets taken away from them and is then used to bash their skulls in. It should not be just "Well, that particular scheme didn't work, lets t

        • Originally, the Review Journal held the "rights". Righthaven sued over the violation of those "rights". The judge figured out that Righthaven had no right to sue, so the Review Journal transferred the actual "rights" to Righthaven, so that Righthaven actually did have the right to sue. But, alas, Righthaven filed their suits BEFORE they had any right to sue - so it was all for naught.

          NOW, the judge says they have to surrender those works which they now actually own.

          So - DMCA notices served against the Re

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phrostie (121428)

      a little karma in the world.

      very nice.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not until the patent decays into the copyright can this ruling by applied. Unfortunately, physics has yet to ever witness such a transmutation as both patent and copyright objects are currently believed to be stable with a half-life longer than that of the observed universe.

    • Maybe all these nonsensical patent trolls will cease to exist... wishful thinking intended.

    • by Tassach (137772)

      This ruling isn't an impeachment of copyright trolling. If anything, it's an affirmation of it.

      As far as I can tell, the court didn't rule that trolling is bad or that Righthaven was doing anything illegal or unethical - it just said they were deadbeats and it's forcing them to liquidate their assets to pay their debts. It just happens that their assets are the bait they troll with, and the buyers are likely to be other trolls.

  • There we go.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Walterk (124748) <dublet@ac m . org> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:19AM (#39350999) Homepage Journal

    And nothing of value was lost..

  • If they failed to make money from it, what is anyone else going to do with it?

    Who would want to buy that crap?

  • Yay! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:36AM (#39351131)

    The Feds finally got *something* right on the topic of intellectual property.

    Maybe we can teach them a second trick.

  • it would be cool own a piece of this glorious victory.
  • temporary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:43AM (#39351185) Homepage Journal

    If this is "outbreak of sanity" (and I don't know without more detail) then it will probably only be a TEMPORARY outbreak of sanity.

    Protecting IP like rabid dogs is considered "common sense" these days, and we all know how often common sense is actually wrong.

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:52AM (#39351247)

    was it being ruled that they didn't have standing to sue - that assigning the right to sue but not the right to license/use the content doesn't work.

    Surely, anyone buying what Righthaven owns also can't sue anyone?

    Though given the ruling says they are the registered copyright holder I guess that mustn't have applied to everything?

  • by Captain Hook (923766) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:03AM (#39351313)

    'The irony of this? Perhaps those who buy the copyrights could issue DMCA notices to the Review-Journal stopping them from redistributing them?'

    I thought that Righthavens undoing was that they acquired the right to sue copyright infringers from the orginal copyright owners but not the right to publish the articles they were suing over.

    Original Slashdot Article [slashdot.org]

    It means that anyone acquiring these rights will have the same problem that Righthaven had, they can't use them for anything.

    • by 91degrees (207121)
      Although, if someone does use them, presumably the newspaper no longer has ownership so no longer has standing to sue.

      I guess really it's a moot point. The newspapers were happy to give up the rights in the first place because apart from the right to sue, they're largely worthless. Except in rare cases, nobody is willing to pay to republish an article.
    • by canajin56 (660655) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:56AM (#39352599)

      Different judge, different case. This judge ruled against Righthaven based only on fair use, that a USER posting to your forum a 4 paragraph excerpt from a 34 paragraph article, linked to the full article, at 0 financial gain to the user or the website, was not copyright violation.

      So in this case, the judge never ruled on who owns it, and he said that while he acknowledges that the ownership is now in dispute because of the wording of the transfer agreement, as far as he can tell, Righthaven is the registered owner of all 275 articles, so he has every right to transfer them to the holder of the receivership. The fact that they actually are registered to Righthaven takes some weight from their losses before the first judge. Only that judge also made a declaratory judgement, calling it fair use regardless of who actually owns the rights, awarding lawyers fees and actually even bringing somebody from Stephens Media in to scold them, because the contract gave them the right to have final say in who to sue in the event it ends up being a charity (which it was!) or a hobbyist, and they did not exercise it. Basically he chewed their ear off for suing a charity over fair use, when as publishers of a law journal, they should damn well know better. In any event, other posters have said that after this initial loss, Righthaven was given full control so they wouldn't lose again. And then they lost again over fair use. So in THAT case, it would have 0 effect on the previous case, since they didn't have them yet. But they do KNOW, so they are fair game for forfeiture to pay the judgement in the first case.

  • Actual Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:09AM (#39351363)

    They lost some legal proceedings they had brought, and were ordered to pay the defendant's costs.

    They failed to comply with the costs order and ended up having their assets seized to be auctioned off to pay the costs.

    The fact that the property was intellectual rather than an office block in Las Vegas was less about the philosophy of the Judge and more about the fact that the IP was the only assets the business held.

    This doesn't speak to the viability or legality of copyright trolling.

    • Re:Actual Summary (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rich0 (548339) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @11:03AM (#39352691) Homepage

      If anything the business model is validated to an extent. They still wreaked havoc on the defendant, and the defendant can't recover their costs since there is nothing to recover.

      That is the problem with IP trolls - they require little capital to operate, and the companies they go after have quite a bit of capital (in most cases). So, they have little downside and considerable upside. In theory a single lawyer could work for a half-dozen of them, so that if one hits the jackpot it can pay out to its shareholders and divest itself of assets to prepare for the next suit, and if one loses it just folds.

  • Oh the sweet irony! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:10AM (#39351379)

    TFA: "...ordered Righthaven to surrender for auction the 278 copyrighted news articles that were the subject of its lawsuits"

    Company gives Righthaven "right to sue" on their article
    Righthaven sues bloggers who use article
    Court tells Righthaven that the "right to sue" doesn't exist
    Company gives Righthaven all rights
    Righthaven goes down in flames
    Bloggers get ownership of articles

    I know it's really going to their lawyers, but the premise is enough to make me smile :)

    -d

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      No, the bloggers just get the right to sue over the articles, which a court has already ruled is without value, and which they wouldn't use anyway because they're not .

      • by Kalriath (849904)

        It's almost like you only read the first three lines...

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          Nah - I just misread line 4. Whoops...

          Not sure it is likely to happen though, unless Righthaven speculatively purchased those rights for a considerable fee (not unlike what happens with debt collectors - they buy your $1k loan for $300, and then they make a profit if they can get more than that).

    • Perfect 10's little scheme had a similar effect. They bought copyright's to Hegre-Art nude photos for the purpose of suing Google Images. Guess who showed up in Google Images with those pictures, Hegre-Art affiliates.

  • Dear Troll (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:12AM (#39351405)

    All your bridge are belong to us.

  • And i needed a good laugh this morning. Thanks Soulskill
  • Finally, a judge who isn't bought out!

  • This was all about just 278 articles?

    I predict they will be bought by the startup LeftHaven, which will continue where RightHaven left off.

    • Yeah, this just gives them more parameters to work with so they don't make the same mistakes next time.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @11:43AM (#39353251) Homepage Journal
    Their going down in flames was due to them not owning any of the IP they were suing over. So I don't think they actually had any.
    • by argmanah (616458)
      That was true initially, but after the problem was realized they got full ownership over much of the IP. As of now they do own a few hundred articles.... Well, I mean, as of before this ruling. They are again back to owning 0 now.
  • Man, someone start a Kickstarter to purchase this, with the sole intention of requiring licensing or takedown from the original copyright owners who assigned their rights to Righthaven to sue with.

    We all kick in a few bucks, buy it out, and get to serve delicious irony on those who were trolling for $$.

The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives. -- Admiral William Leahy, U.S. Atomic Bomb Project

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