In the latest news, the copyright enforcement outfit recently filed papers asking that it be allowed to drop its lawsuit against political site Democratic Underground. Righthaven earlier sued the group because a visitor to its Web site allegedly posted five sentences of a 50-sentence Las Vegas Review-Journal article titled "Tea Party power fuels Angle."
That lawsuit was among more than 160 filed by Righthaven since launching earlier this year. The company sues bloggers like a Massachusetts resident who writes about cats, nonprofits like NORML, political candidates like Sharron Angle, and others for allegedly re-posting articles, or portions of articles, that originally appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Righthaven, unlike most companies who complain about reposts of news articles, typically files suit without first asking Web site operators to take down the pieces. In nearly every case, the first the defendants learned that their sites had troubled the Review-Journal was when they were notified by a reporter about the lawsuit.
The digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation took up Democratic Underground's case and filed papers arguing that the case should be dismissed for a variety of reasons, including that the post was a fair use. The EFF also asked the judge to order Righthaven to pay Democratic Underground's legal bills.
The copyright statute gives judges the discretion to order the losing side to pay the winner's legal fees -- though judges need not do so.
Righthaven says in its papers that it now seeks to withdraw the case against Democratic Underground due to a recent loss in another lawsuit -- a copyright infringement case against a blogger who allegedly lifted eight sentences of a 30-sentence Las Vegas Review-Journal article. U.S. District Court Judge Larry Hicks dismissed Righthaven's lawsuit, ruling that the blogger was protected by fair use principles.
Given that ruling, Righthaven obviously is afraid that it could be on the hook for Democratic Underground's legal bills. Of course, the lawyers behind Righthaven could have considered this risk before trolling for copyright violations and then commencing litigation as a money-making venture.
In related news, Righthaven appears to have lost its main booster, publisher Sherman Frederick, in a shake up at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Righthaven CEO Steve Gibson told the Las Vegas Sun that Frederick's departure "in no way diminishes the Righthaven business model." Still, it's not clear yet whether new management at Review-Journal will take to the lawsuits as enthusiastically as Frederick did.