When copyright enforcement outfit Righthaven first started suing bloggers for reposting news articles, the company demanded not only up to $150,000 in damages, but also the surrender of their domain names.
In the 19 months since the company started suing, it filed cases against people like a 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.
But now, 275 lawsuits later, it's Righthaven that could end up surrendering its assets. Monday night, a federal court authorized marshals to seize Righthaven's property in order to satisfy a judgment against it for around $60,000.
The move comes after U.S. District Court Judge Philip Pro not only dismissed Righthaven's lawsuit against Web user Wayne Hoehn, but also ordered the company to reimburse Hoehn's defense attorneys.
Righthaven sued Hoehn for allegedly infringing copyright by reposting an entire article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal in an online forum. But Pro ruled that Righthaven never had standing to sue for infringement of that article because the company didn't obtain the right to license it from the Review-Journal's owner.
Pro wasn't the only judge to rule that Righthaven lacked standing to sue. Other federal judges in Nevada and one in Colorado (where Righthaven sued for infringement of Denver Post material) also came to the same conclusion. The result was that dozens of the company's lawsuits were dismissed.
Righthaven has said it's appealing the dismissals. The company also says it has a new contract with the owner of the Review-Journal (though not the Denver Post, which allowed its deal with Righthaven to lapse).
Meanwhile, as of Monday Righthaven apparently hadn't either paid Hoehn's attorneys or posted a bond with the court, which led to the order directing marshals to seize the company's assets. The company's next move still isn't known, but Righthaven could try to appeal, or take other emergency measures -- like filing for bankruptcy.
Either way, it's safe to assume the company didn't contemplate this legal mess back when it decided that suing bloggers was a good business plan.