Copyright Troll Grilled By Appeals Judges
It looks like the copyright troll Righthaven is facing an uphill battle in its bid to resurrect its lawsuits against bloggers.
Two years ago, Righthaven appeared out of nowhere and started suing small publishers and bloggers who reposted articles from the Las Vegas Review Journal and other newspapers.
The company, helmed by attorney Steven Gibson, brought nearly 300 lawsuits -- including cases against a woman who blogged about cats, a 20-year-old man suffering from autism as well as severe diabetes, and a source who proudly reposted an article based on his research -- before it was shut down by trial judges.
The main reason why Righthaven's scheme unraveled was fairly technical: It never obtained all of the rights to the articles -- especially the right to license them to other publications.
If the Las Vegas Review-Journal had hired a law firm to bring copyright lawsuits, the cases might not have been thrown out. But the newspaper didn't structure its deal that way. Instead, it tried to assign the right to sue to Righthaven while keeping the other rights to the articles -- an arrangement that the 9th Circuit condemned years ago, in a different case.
Once trial judges learned the details of Righthaven's arrangement with newspapers, the courts started throwing out Righthaven's lawsuits. Righthaven appealed to the 9th Circuit, where the company argued that its contract with newspapers was valid.
A three-judge panel heard arguments on Tuesday. They appeared unimpressed with Righthaven's argument, with one judge going so far as to call the company's contract with newspapers "too cute by half."
From the overall tone of the argument (an audio recording is available on the 9th Circuit's site), it seems that the judges are inclined to uphold the dismissals. If so, that's good news for the people sued by Righthaven, but it won't prevent other content owners from simply hiring attorneys to bring infringement cases against bloggers in the future.