Copyright enforcer Righthaven suffered another blow this week, when U.S. District Court Judge Philip Pro in Nevada granted a request to auction off the company's assets -- including its portfolio of copyright registrations for newspaper articles.
The order came after Righthaven failed to pay $63,000 to defense attorneys for Wayne Hoehn, who prevailed in a lawsuit accusing him of infringing copyright by reposting a Las Vegas Review-Journal article. Pro ruled that Righthaven lacked standing to sue Hoehn because the company hadn't obtained the right to license the news story from Stephens Media, the parent company of the Review-Journal. Five other judges in Nevada and Colorado have come to a similar conclusion. (Righthaven has since revised its contract with Stephens Media and now, presumably, has additional rights to the company's news articles.)
Pro separately ruled that Hoehn made fair use of the Review-Journal piece -- even though he posted the entire article on a Web forum.
After dismissing Righthaven's lawsuit, Pro ruled that Hoehn's attorneys were entitled to reimbursement for their work on the case. The amount originally came to $34,000 but the figure was later bumped to $63,000 because Righthaven didn't pay up, requiring Hoehn's lawyers to do extra work. Last month, after Righthaven failed to post a bond, Pro authorized the federal marshals to start seizing company assets, but they only recovered around $1,000.
Pro has now signed an order granting a defense motion to require Righthaven to assign its intellectual property to Lara Pearson, an attorney who specializes in copyright and trademark transactions and authors the blog brandgeek.net. Pearson will be tasked with auctioning off Righthaven's assets in order to pay the judgment against the company.
Of course, none of this means that Righthaven will fold for good. The company -- which in the last two years has sued around 275 bloggers and other small publishers for allegedly reposting news articles and photos -- has so far managed to stay afloat despite other unfavorable court rulings. Still, the recent ruling is hardly a good development for the company, which once touted itself as champion of the newspaper industry.