Copyright Lawsuit Group Uses Asinine Argument To Try To Wiggle Out Of Legal Fees

Brad Chacos

Think the whole RIAA/MPAA lawsuit factory is ridiculous? You should see what what Righthaven's pulling in the newspaper world. The company's entire purpose is to sue the pants off of small-time bloggers, websites and forum members who post newspaper clips and articles online. They target itty-bitty operations who probably can't afford litigation and strong arm them into ponying up $2,000 to $5,000 settlements instead. Well, that M.O. backfired recently; a Righthaven case was tossed out of court and they were ordered to pay $34,000 in legal fees to the defendant – but you should hear the shenanigans they tried to pull to get out of paying.

Righthaven sued Wayne Hoehn, a forum poster on the Madjack Sports website. Ars Technica reports that Hoehn had posted two op-ed pieces on the forum, with one coming from the Las Vegas Review-Journal – who's publisher helped form Righthaven. The Las Vegas Review-Journal signed a contract with Righthaven that gave the lawsuit-happy group the right to sue Hoehn, which they promptly did.

The problem is, only copyright holders can sue for infringement, and Righthaven's contract awarded the company the right to sue, but didn't transfer copyright. Apparently, Righthaven's lawyers, despite their frequent impulse to drag forum posters into court, didn't understand the simple concept that, um, you can't give somebody else the right to sue in your stead. Because of that, they didn't even have a legal basis for bringing the lawsuit to court. Righthaven was simply wasting everybody's time.

The pissed-off judge called Hoehn's posting fair use – neatly plucking Hoehn out of legal hot water and establishing a precedent that could derail Righthaven's entire business model. Hoehn then requested $34,045.50 to cover the legal fees of his lawyers. Righthaven resisted. Its argument? Since the judge ruled the case frivolous, that took away his right to jurisdiction – including the awarding of legal fees.

The defense lawyer strongly disagreed and called the proposal "bizarre," although he admired Righthaven's "chutzpah" in making such a stupid claim. After hearing Righthaven's asinine plea, the judge quickly agreed with Hoehn's attorney. Righthaven has until September 14th to pay Hoehn's legal fees.

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