Righthaven LLC, the Las Vegas newspaper copyright lawsuit company, filed an emergency appeal Tuesday to block an auction of its copyrights — an auction Righthaven says is aimed at dismantling the company, even though the copyrights are “allegedly suspect.”
A federal judge in Las Vegas last week granted Righthaven defendant Wayne Hoehn’s motion that Righthaven turn its intellectual property — including copyrights — over to a receiver so they could be auctioned.
Hoehn wants them auctioned because Righthaven owes him $63,720 for his legal expenses in defeating Righthaven’s copyright infringement lawsuit against him — one of 275 such suits Righthaven filed since March 2010 over Las Vegas Review-Journal and Denver Post material.
Any money raised in the auction would be applied toward the debt to Hoehn.
Righthaven, in Tuesday’s appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, acknowledged the copyrights at issue are “allegedly suspect” — that is, they may not have much value as six federal judges in Nevada and Colorado have ruled Righthaven lacked standing to sue under the copyrights.
That’s because, under its lawsuit contracts with the Review-Journal and the Post, the newspapers remained in control of the material Righthaven was suing over.
Righthaven is appealing several of those legal setbacks, along with rulings that Hoehn and some other defendants were protected by fair use in using R-J material without authorization.
In noting the value of its copyrights may be “suspect,” Righthaven suggested Hoehn’s attorneys at Randazza Legal Group in Las Vegas are seeking to auction them so that Righthaven will have to shut down.
Righthaven reiterated claims it has been unable to obtain a bond.
A bond would guarantee payment of Hoehn’s fees should Hoehn prevail in Righthaven’s appeal of the dismissal of Righthaven’s suit against the Kentucky man, who had posted an R-J column on a message board without authorization.
The bond is an important issue in the appeal because Hoehn’s attorneys would have been satisfied with the posting of a bond and wouldn’t have resorted to collection efforts that included having U.S. Marshals seize a Righthaven bank account and, now, the copyright auction plan.
“Hoehn is seeking to seize and sell allegedly suspect copyrights, the validity of which are currently subject to review by this court. In short, Hoehn seeks to dismantle or, at least, significantly inhibit Righthaven’s ability to operate as a going concern by seizing the content the company has sought to protect through copyright enforcement efforts while also jeopardizing the company’s ability to prosecute its pending appeals before this court,” said Tuesday’s appeal filed by one of Righthaven’s outside attorneys, Shawn Mangano, in Las Vegas.
Mangano reiterated arguments that once the federal judge in the Hoehn case, Philip Pro in Las Vegas, found Righthaven lacked standing to sue Hoehn, he then lacked jurisdiction to award Hoehn his legal fees.
Pro and two other federal judges handling Righthaven cases have rejected those arguments after defense attorneys said people hit with Righthaven’s no-warning lawsuits had the right to be reimbursed for their expenses in fighting the company.
Without owning its copyrights, Righthaven may have trouble pursuing its appeals and prosecuting pending lawsuits.
“By seizing and selling the copyrights at auction, Hoehn is seeking to eviscerate Righthaven’s ability to prosecute several appeals pending before this court, as well as also compromising the company’s ability to prosecute several pending district court actions. Hoehn is seizing the copyrights because doing so strikes at the heart of Righthaven’s content-protection driven business model,” Mangano wrote in his filing. “Hoehn is not seizing the copyrights for sale in an earnest attempt to satisfy the judgment because he has successfully argued to the district court that they insufficiently vest Righthaven with ownership of the copyrighted works.”
It’s unknown when the 9th Circuit will rule on the emergency request.