Update: Copyright Trolling Becomes Increasingly Financially Hazardous

A Nevada federal court recently found Righthaven LLC responsible for $34,000 in attorneys’ fees.  This onerous judgment couldn’t have fallen on a more deserving group – Righthaven is a copyright troll notorious for suing bloggers and forum posters who have excerpted from or copied articles from other sites to share with their friends or the general public. 

Washington Legal Foundation has sounded out against trolls many times in the past (see e.g. this criticism of patent trolls: Patent Troll Forces Online Music Sellers, Buys to Pay a Toll), including an August 5 WLF Legal Opinion Letter, , Selling Legal Standing? Righthaven LLC And The Judiciary’s Response To Copyright Trolling, in which this description of Righthaven’s unsavory practices can be found: 

In bringing these suits, Righthaven exploits a loophole in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which states that for user-generated sites to have a “safe harbor” they must fill out a form and pay $100 to register a DMCA “takedown agent” with the U.S. Copyright Office. Righthaven targets those websites whose proprietors have not done that.  The first notice accused infringers receive is a complaint threatening damages of up to $150,000 and confiscation of their website’s domain name. The violations that trigger this are often trivial, such as posts or comments generated by site visitors. Many of Righthaven’s targets are owners of small, low-trafficked blogs who do not possess the financial resources to challenge Righthaven in court. This “shoot first ask questions later” approach routinely compels defendants to quickly settle. Since 2010, Righthaven has filed over 300 suits, and although none have yet succeeded, about 100 have ended in settlement.”

But the worm has turned.  In Righthaven v. Hoehn Judge Philip M. Pro ruled that Righthaven had no standing to bring the case and that even if they did, Hoehn’s use of the text in question constituted fair use.  Then, only days ago, the Judge ruled that Righthaven should pay $34,000 for Hoehn’s attorneys’ fees. 

Befitting its character, Righthaven audaciously tried to wriggle its way out of the payment by declaring that since it did not have standing in the case, the court did not have jurisdiction to compel Righthaven to pay the fees.  Judge Pro disagreed and ordered that the fees be paid by September 14.

For more on this topic, see Ars Technica, TechDirt, and VegasInc.

One thought on “Update: Copyright Trolling Becomes Increasingly Financially Hazardous

  1. Pingback: Finger on the Pulse: From Our Blogroll and Beyond « The Legal Pulse

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