Copyright infringement lawsuit filer Righthaven LLC of Las Vegas received breaks in two of its cases this week, though it still faces plenty of challenges down the road.
The company, which sued over online infringements of newspaper content, gave up on filing suits last year.
That’s when judges found it lacked standing to sue because of ineffective copyright assignments from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post.
In several cases, defendants were also cleared by the fair use concept of copyright law.
Righthaven continues to pursue some appeals of its legal setbacks.
One of its 275 lawsuits was against Kentucky resident Wayne Hoehn, who without authorization copied a Review-Journal column and placed it on a sports betting website message board.
A federal judge in Las Vegas found Righthaven lacked standing to sue Hoehn, that the defendant was protected by fair use and that Righthaven had to pay his $34,045 in legal fees.
Righthaven appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco and that’s where it received a break Thursday.
Righthaven’s appeal was in jeopardy of being dismissed because of legal foul-ups it blames on a former outside attorney involving missed deadlines to file court records.
Righthaven, with a new attorney, asked the court to allow the appeal to continue despite its tardiness — a request opposed by Hoehn’s attorneys.
They said Righthaven and its CEO, Las Vegas attorney Steven Gibson, could have made sure the court papers were filed in time but failed to do so. The lack of timely prosecution of the appeal was the latest episode in a pattern of Righthaven missing court deadlines or disregarding court rules, they said.
But Peter Shaw, an appellate commissioner at the 9th Circuit, issued a short order Thursday allowing the case to continue.
“The appellee’s (Hoehn’s) motion to dismiss for lack of prosecution is denied,” Shaw wrote in his order without elaboration.
In a second ruling this week, U.S. District Judge Edward Reed Jr. in Reno dismissed a May 2011 Righthaven lawsuit against Greg Stocks of Baltimore, who has a website called The Law Med Blog.
The dismissal was expected after Righthaven failed to serve Stocks.
Righthaven received a break in the dismissal order when Reed rejected a request by Stocks that Righthaven be sanctioned for allegedly lying to the court.
Righthaven’s alleged lie, Stocks said, related to the company claiming it couldn’t serve him with its lawsuit because it couldn’t locate him — even though Righthaven’s own court filings included his correct address.
Stocks also pointed out that Righthaven had told the Nevada federal court it couldn’t locate him and certain other defendants to serve them papers it was required to serve on all defendants in open cases over Review-Journal material.
Those papers related to Righthaven being sanctioned and fined $5,000 for misleading Nevada federal judges about its lawsuits. As part of his sanctions order, U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt ordered Righthaven to produce to defendants like Stocks a copy of his orders concerning the sanction and a transcript of a hearing where he levied the fine and imposed the sanctions.
Righthaven’s apparent motivation in not wanting to serve him and certain other defendants it had sued with the lawsuits and sanctions documents, he said, was that it knew the lawsuits were flawed and hoped that by not serving the defendants, the suits would be dismissed without prejudice. That way, Righthaven could sue them again should its right to sue be revived or should it revise its lawsuit contract with the Review-Journal to beef up its standing to sue.
Reed, however, wrote in his order dismissing Righthaven’s suit against Stocks that he wouldn’t immediately sanction Righthaven and that he wouldn’t dismiss the suit with prejudice so Righthaven couldn’t sue him again.
“While the accusations contained in the (Stocks) motion to dismiss are troublesome, at this time the court shall decline to award sanctions or to dismiss with prejudice,” Reed wrote in his order.
Stocks said that given Righthaven’s moribund status, he doesn’t plan to ask Reed to reconsider the decision.
In a blog post last week reviewing the lawsuit against him, Stocks said he had been “subjected to ‘legal’ extortion by Righthaven.”
The extortion claim relates to Righthaven demanding settlements from defendants — making it cheaper to settle than to fight — and threatening to seize their website domain names. Righthaven’s website domain name demands were thrown out by Hunt, who ruled Congress didn’t authorize such a remedy in copyright infringement suits.
Righthaven and its partner, R-J owner Stephens Media LLC, have said the no-warning lawsuits — a first in recent times for the newspaper industry — were necessary to crack down on rampant online theft of newspaper material.
Despite its breaks this week, Righthaven continues to face efforts by defense attorneys to recover nearly $189,000 in legal fees from Righthaven, a task complicated by Righthaven’s claim it no longer has any cash or assets.
On top of the $188,927 Righthaven has been ordered to pay defendants who defeated it in court, attorneys in Righthaven’s key Democratic Underground case are seeking another $774,000 from Righthaven and Stephens Media for their fees.