Copyright enforcer Righthaven has lost its domain name after failing to reimburse defense attorneys who successfully represented a blogger.
Righthaven's URL is currently being auctioned off by Lara Pearson, an attorney appointed by U.S. District Court Judge Philip Pro to sell Righthaven's assets at auction. Pro ordered the domain name, as well as Righthaven's portfolio of copyrights, auctioned after the company failed to reimburse defense attorneys $63,000 for representing Web user Wayne Hoehn.
The auction began this week and is slated to go through Jan. 6.
Righthaven originally sued Hoehn for infringing copyright by reposting a Las Vegas Review-Journal article in an online forum. Pro ruled that Righthaven lacked standing to sue Hoehn because the company never obtained key rights -- including the right to license the news story -- from Stephens Media, the parent company of the Review-Journal.
Five other judges in Nevada and Colorado arrived at a similar conclusion in suits brought by Righthaven. (Righthaven has since revised its contract with Stephens Media.) Pro also ruled that Hoehn made fair use of the Review-Journal piece -- although he posted the entire article on a Web forum.
Righthaven is appealing that ruling and has asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to block the auction, but the appellate court hasn't ruled on the request as of Wednesday morning.
Righthaven, which once touted itself as the champion of the newspaper industry, launched a litigation campaign against bloggers who reposted news articles. The company brought around 275 lawsuits against bloggers or other small publishers who allegedly infringed copyright to articles from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and The Denver Post.
Unlike many content owners, Righthaven sued bloggers without first asking that they remove articles. That strategy triggered criticism by observers, who said lawsuits should be a last resort. Critics also said that the lawsuits could chill free speech by making bloggers afraid to draw on news articles -- even where doing so would be fair use.
Some of Righthaven's most notable lawsuits included a case against a newspaper source who reposted a story based on his own research, a woman in Massachusetts who blogged about cats, and a 20-year-old autistic man who also suffers from severe diabetes.