U.S. District Court Judge Philip Pro recently dismissed a lawsuit brought by Righthaven against Wayne Hoehn, who allegedly posted an entire Las Vegas Review-Journal in an online forum. Pro ruled that Righthaven lacked standing to sue because its contract with the Review-Journal didn't allow Righthaven to license the material. Pro additionally ruled that Hoehn's post was a fair use.
Hoehn's team, led by Marc Randazza, then put in for their fees. The federal copyright statute authorizes judges to order the losing side to pay the prevailing party's legal bills.
Righthaven made the absurd claim that Hoehn wasn't a prevailing party because the case was dismissed on the ground that the court had no jurisdiction, given Righthaven's lack of standing.
Pro this week ordered Righthaven to pay Randazza and his firm around $34,000. That's on top of another judge's recent order fining Righthaven $5,000 for making an incorrect statement in its court filings; it's also on top of an order requiring Righthaven to reimburse defense attorneys to the tune of $3,000-plus.
Judges need not award attorneys' fees in copyright litigation. At this point, it's not clear how many copyright cases overall result in attorney fee awards or what factors go into that decision. But the nature of Righthaven's lawsuits -- especially the fact that the company isn't suing as a last resort but rather runs to court without first asking bloggers to take down the material -- almost certainly is playing a role in judges' recent decisions to penalize the company.