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The Courts The Media

Judge Puts Righthaven Cases In Colorado On Hold 36

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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  • by I'm not really here ( 1304615 ) on Friday May 20, 2011 @08:57AM (#36190576)

    This removes the "distance" that all of these companies using Righthaven chose Righthaven for, so they'd be liable for any losses. The current situation appears to leave only Righthaven responsible for any losses, and leaves the businesses free and clear of any possible loss.

  • by devjoe ( 88696 ) on Friday May 20, 2011 @09:15AM (#36190766)
    Something like that. I think that the idea behind creating Righthaven was meant to avoid having the newspapers themselves be the plaintiffs in these lawsuits, to put a (poorly thought out) shell between the papers and the suits (to try to dodge exactly the countersuit that has now been filed - Righthaven may go bankrupt if they lose, but the newspapers will, they hope, come out unscathed and set up another shell). But since the current suits are having trouble due to Righthaven not actually owning the copyrights, they may just reorganize in a different way, where the newspapers sign over all their copyrights to Righthaven with the newspapers retaining a license to use the material, and proceed exactly as they have been doing.

    And when that happens these suits will be on much better footing (since, as far as I know, these defendants have actually been using material copied from the newspapers). They may still fail on fair use or other grounds, but it is then much less likely that some defense will come out that will invalidate the entire group of them. Assuming, of course, that the countersuit does not find the newspapers themselves liable for the suits in the shell company they set up, and bankrupt them all.

    Disclaimers: IANAL. I have not been sued by Righthaven, and I don't believe I have ever copied anything from those newspapers (or even read anything from them except for occasional Slashdot stories linking to them).
  • Re:Countersuit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jonbryce ( 703250 ) on Friday May 20, 2011 @10:03AM (#36191346) Homepage

    Very unlikely. If Righthaven isn't the copyright holder, it has no more right to sue for infringement than I do. This is pretty basic Copyright Law 101 stuff, and no judge is going to risk their reputation ruling otherwise.

  • Re:Standing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Friday May 20, 2011 @11:41AM (#36192400)

    It sounds promising - he's acknowledging that TrollHaven likely doesn't even own this IP, and if they do, haven't been injured.

    No, the judge noticed that RightHaven doesn't own the copyrights that it is suing about, and _because they don't_, they haven't been injured.

    For $100, I sell you the right to sue anyone who damages my car for those damages. What do you actually get for the $100? The only thing you get is that when you try to sue someone who damaged my car, _I_ cannot come running to the judge and complain. However, you won't get any damages because the damaged car is not actually yours. You basically paid $100 for a right that isn't worth anything.

    I don't think there is anything that could happen legally to the copyright holder, but I think Righthaven might go down for fraud. Let's say I have done something that makes me actually guilty of copyright infringement. The copyright holder can then take me to court, or ask for money in order not to take me to court, which I would have to accept. However, if anyone who is not the copyright holder tells me they are going to sue me, and asks for money, and I pay up, then I think this is quite clearly fraud.

  • Judge says... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RobertM1968 ( 951074 ) on Friday May 20, 2011 @01:21PM (#36193430) Homepage Journal

    (in non-Judge speak)
    Fuck you Righthaven, I'm not playing this silly game allowing you to game the system as a means to make money for stuff you don't even own. As soon as I am done writing my ruling and opinion on the matter, I'm tossing all your garbage.

    Now, with luck, his opinion and ruling will be written in a fashion allowing those being sued to call upon another (yet lesser known) part of the DMCA allowing them to recoup damages (and legal fees) for Righthaven using the DMCA to knowingly bring frivolous lawsuits against them.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972