Remember that scene in the first Lord of the Rings movie where the cave troll with a dangling, broken chain around its neck threatens everyone in sight?
Well, it looks as if one of the biggest copyright trolls in the U.S. may be chained in a way that is good news for us all, thanks to the common sense of two federal judges and a new CEO at one of its biggest clients.
Eric Crusius, a Tysons Corner, VA attorney at the Center Law Group posted some interesting news recently about Righthaven,the copyright troll law firm that’s been in the news for all the right reasons lately. At least they’re the right reasons for anyone who produces or uses online content:
- A federal judge threw out two Righthaven lawsuits because Righthaven failed to show that the Defendants had been served on time.
- A federal judge sanctioned Righthaven $5,000 for misleading the Court concerning the terms of the contract between it and Stephens Media (the parent company of the Las Vegas Review-Journal).
- At least some of Righthaven’s lawsuits have been dismissed for lack of standing. The Court noted in its decision that Righthaven had only obtained the right to sue and not the copyrights themselves – a necessary component to a copyright suit.
- A federal judge in Las Vegas ordered Righthaven to pay $34,000 in a defendant’s legal fees after dismissing Righthaven’s case.
Wired writer David Kravitz reported that Righthaven CEO Steve Gibson confirmed via telephone that the company had stopped filing new lawsuits pending appellate rulings that could take months or even years to filter through the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Kravitz quoted Kurt Opsahl, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), saying, “The cases continue to show that their business model is not a viable business model.”
In a separate article Kravitz reports that one of Righthaven’s largest customers, the MediaNews Group, publisher of the Denver Postand 50 other newspapers, will end its contract with the company at the end of the month, quoting new CEO John Paton (just named to his position this week) as saying that it was “a dumb idea” for the nation’s second-largest newspaper chain to sign up with Righthaven in the first place.
Righthaven continues to say that the controversy over its methods is not a fight over legal technicalities (such as whether or not it has the right to file the cases, or when someone is served), but rather fight over “whether the blogosphere has the right to take someone’s work and reproduce it.”
That claim seems dubious at best – no lawyer or serious writer is arguing that copyright laws don’t matter. They’re arguing that those who create the intellectual property – writers, photographers, filmmakers, artists, and the publishers who pay them for licenses to their work – should be able to protect their rights, but copyright trolls shouldn’t be able to file hundreds or thousands of “John Doe” lawsuits in courts far outside the area where the alleged infringement occurred.