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Righthaven Ordered To Forfeit Its Intellectual Property

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the chickens-coming-home-to-roost dept.

The Courts 62

New submitter BenJCarter writes with an update on Righthaven, the company that tried to make a business model out of copyright trolling. According to Wired, "[Righthaven] was dealt a death blow on Tuesday by a federal judge who ordered the Las Vegas company to forfeit 'all of' its intellectual property and other 'intangible property' to settle its debts. ... U.S. District Judge Philip M. Pro of Nevada ordered Righthaven to surrender for auction the 278 copyrighted news articles that were the subject of its lawsuits. ... Righthaven's first client, Stephens Media of Las Vegas and operator of the Review-Journal, invested $500,000 into the Righthaven operation at its outset. With Judge Pro's ruling (PDF), the media company is losing financial control of hundreds of articles and photos. 'The irony of this? Perhaps those who buy the copyrights could issue DMCA notices to the Review-Journal stopping them from redistributing them?' [opposing lawyer Marc Randazza] said via an e-mail, citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act."

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Finally (5, Funny)

Speeddymon (1666423) | more than 2 years ago | (#39350991)

Maybe all this nonsense with patent trolling will cease & desist ... pun intended.

Re:Finally (3, Interesting)

sosume (680416) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351043)

"Perhaps those who buy the copyrights could issue DMCA notices to the Review-Journal stopping them from redistributing them?'"
This is pure gold!

Re:Finally (4, Interesting)

Dorkmaster Flek (1013045) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351317)

In principle, yes, but I thought one of the strikes against them was that they didn't actually own the copyrights to anything they were suing over. They had the "right to sue" only, but the judges rules that you can't transfer only the "right to sue" of a copyright. It has to be the whole thing. If they don't actually own the copyrights, they don't have to forfeit anything.

Re:Finally (2)

cduffy (652) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351579)

In principle, yes, but I thought one of the strikes against them was that they didn't actually own the copyrights to anything they were suing over. They had the "right to sue" only, but the judges rules that you can't transfer only the "right to sue" of a copyright. It has to be the whole thing. If they don't actually own the copyrights, they don't have to forfeit anything.

My impression was that they went back and got actual copyright transfers late in the game, after suffering several losses on this account.

Re:Finally (2)

Dorkmaster Flek (1013045) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351683)

I didn't personally follow up on that, but if that is indeed the case, ouch. That means that news company effectively gave up their copyrights for nothing.

Re:Finally (4, Interesting)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39352607)

Um... I don't play much poker, but even I know that you don't raise heavily on a crap hand. You may think you're successfully bluffing, but you're not; that kind of mad-dog behavior is a tell.

So, Righthaven and their corporate overlords went all-in on an 8-high no-pair hand and rightly lost their entire stake. Yaaaaay.

Re:Finally (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39353567)

More like they got shot in the ass when they got caught trying to pull an ace out of their sleeve.

Re:Finally (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#39353749)

If they don't actually own the copyrights, they don't have to forfeit anything.

IANAL, and it sounds like that's how it would all work out in the end, but I'd still very much like to see some organization sue the assholes who were working with righthaven nonetheless. Out of spite. Let this be a lesson to any company that tries to do similar greedy things. The price for companies trying to use IP laws as a gun to mug the public should be the gun gets taken away from them and is then used to bash their skulls in. It should not be just "Well, that particular scheme didn't work, lets try another way of fucking with copyright."

Re:Finally (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#39353897)

Originally, the Review Journal held the "rights". Righthaven sued over the violation of those "rights". The judge figured out that Righthaven had no right to sue, so the Review Journal transferred the actual "rights" to Righthaven, so that Righthaven actually did have the right to sue. But, alas, Righthaven filed their suits BEFORE they had any right to sue - so it was all for naught.

NOW, the judge says they have to surrender those works which they now actually own.

So - DMCA notices served against the Review Journal are in order. The Review no longer owns those copyrighted works.

Re:Finally (3, Insightful)

phrostie (121428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351103)

a little karma in the world.

very nice.

Re:Finally (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39351115)

Not until the patent decays into the copyright can this ruling by applied. Unfortunately, physics has yet to ever witness such a transmutation as both patent and copyright objects are currently believed to be stable with a half-life longer than that of the observed universe.

Re:Finally (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | more than 2 years ago | (#39352767)

Maybe all these nonsensical patent trolls will cease to exist... wishful thinking intended.

Re:Finally (1)

Tassach (137772) | more than 2 years ago | (#39359007)

This ruling isn't an impeachment of copyright trolling. If anything, it's an affirmation of it.

As far as I can tell, the court didn't rule that trolling is bad or that Righthaven was doing anything illegal or unethical - it just said they were deadbeats and it's forcing them to liquidate their assets to pay their debts. It just happens that their assets are the bait they troll with, and the buyers are likely to be other trolls.

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39359881)

It's a perfect model - let the three strikes and your out idea work both ways. File three invalid take-down notices related to a work, lose your copyright on the work.

There we go.. (5, Informative)

Walterk (124748) | more than 2 years ago | (#39350999)

And nothing of value was lost..

Re:There we go.. (4, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351063)

Nope, it was auctioned off.

Re:There we go.. (3, Insightful)

rufty_tufty (888596) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351165)

Except time money and the stress and grief put up on others by this sham of a company.

Re:There we go.. (3, Interesting)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351225)

And nothing of value was lost..

Nothing to us, the sensible masses, but to the folks that invested half a million dollars, around a half million dollars of value was lost.

Chalk one up for the good guys.

Re:There we go.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39351263)

And nothing of value was lost..

Nothing to us, the sensible masses, but to the folks that invested half a million dollars, around a half million dollars of value was lost.

Chalk one up for the good guys.

They didn't lose a half million.

They lost a half million in 'cash', and they also lost their rights to the very material they hired Righthaven to "protect". This just gave me a fat boner.

Re:There we go.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39351423)

Now that's just silly! They were suing people left and right for ridiculous amounts, so those 278 news articles must be worth untold millions. No doubt they'll be lining up outside the auction site to snatch them up!

All that valuable IP (1)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351071)

If they failed to make money from it, what is anyone else going to do with it?

Who would want to buy that crap?

Re:All that valuable IP (1)

Sqr(twg) (2126054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351121)

The judge is not doing this for the value of the IP. It is a message to copyright holders. "If you give your IP to scumbags, you may loose all rigths to it."

Re:All that valuable IP (3, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39352015)

"If you give your IP to scumbags, you may loose all rigths to it."

Best pun I've seen all day.

Re:All that valuable IP (1)

MarkGriz (520778) | more than 2 years ago | (#39354217)

Maybe they'll just form a new company, buy it from the old company, and repeat.

If at first you don't succeed....

DMCA Reversal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39351105)

FTW!

Yay! (4, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351131)

The Feds finally got *something* right on the topic of intellectual property.

Maybe we can teach them a second trick.

Re:Yay! (5, Insightful)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351243)

I like to think of them like a puppy. Just because they peed in the right spot once, doesn't mean they are potty trained.

anyone know how to get some?? (1)

vonshavingcream (2291296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351143)

it would be cool own a piece of this glorious victory.

Re:anyone know how to get some?? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351183)

If we can identify the most valuable article maybe we could have a kickstarter. :p

temporary (3, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351185)

If this is "outbreak of sanity" (and I don't know without more detail) then it will probably only be a TEMPORARY outbreak of sanity.

Protecting IP like rabid dogs is considered "common sense" these days, and we all know how often common sense is actually wrong.

Re:temporary (3, Interesting)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351209)

Why don't we make this business model explicitly illegal???

Oh yeah... government works for the highest bidder right now and never in the public interest. It should be explicitly illegal... buy "Intellectual Property" for the non-good faith reason of suing people and you lose it. Of course that is too simple to be accepted and I have no money to buy lobbyists.

Re:temporary (3, Funny)

Sique (173459) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351595)

The judge found this business model to be illegal (e.g. having no legal basis to work on). So why making something illegal illegal? That's like forbidding criminality.

Since one of the nails in the coffin (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351247)

was it being ruled that they didn't have standing to sue - that assigning the right to sue but not the right to license/use the content doesn't work.

Surely, anyone buying what Righthaven owns also can't sue anyone?

Though given the ruling says they are the registered copyright holder I guess that mustn't have applied to everything?

No, they couldn't use DMCA (2)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351313)

'The irony of this? Perhaps those who buy the copyrights could issue DMCA notices to the Review-Journal stopping them from redistributing them?'

I thought that Righthavens undoing was that they acquired the right to sue copyright infringers from the orginal copyright owners but not the right to publish the articles they were suing over.

Original Slashdot Article [slashdot.org]

It means that anyone acquiring these rights will have the same problem that Righthaven had, they can't use them for anything.

Re:No, they couldn't use DMCA (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351739)

Although, if someone does use them, presumably the newspaper no longer has ownership so no longer has standing to sue.

I guess really it's a moot point. The newspapers were happy to give up the rights in the first place because apart from the right to sue, they're largely worthless. Except in rare cases, nobody is willing to pay to republish an article.

Re:No, they couldn't use DMCA (5, Insightful)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 2 years ago | (#39352599)

Different judge, different case. This judge ruled against Righthaven based only on fair use, that a USER posting to your forum a 4 paragraph excerpt from a 34 paragraph article, linked to the full article, at 0 financial gain to the user or the website, was not copyright violation.

So in this case, the judge never ruled on who owns it, and he said that while he acknowledges that the ownership is now in dispute because of the wording of the transfer agreement, as far as he can tell, Righthaven is the registered owner of all 275 articles, so he has every right to transfer them to the holder of the receivership. The fact that they actually are registered to Righthaven takes some weight from their losses before the first judge. Only that judge also made a declaratory judgement, calling it fair use regardless of who actually owns the rights, awarding lawyers fees and actually even bringing somebody from Stephens Media in to scold them, because the contract gave them the right to have final say in who to sue in the event it ends up being a charity (which it was!) or a hobbyist, and they did not exercise it. Basically he chewed their ear off for suing a charity over fair use, when as publishers of a law journal, they should damn well know better. In any event, other posters have said that after this initial loss, Righthaven was given full control so they wouldn't lose again. And then they lost again over fair use. So in THAT case, it would have 0 effect on the previous case, since they didn't have them yet. But they do KNOW, so they are fair game for forfeiture to pay the judgement in the first case.

Actual Summary (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39351363)

They lost some legal proceedings they had brought, and were ordered to pay the defendant's costs.

They failed to comply with the costs order and ended up having their assets seized to be auctioned off to pay the costs.

The fact that the property was intellectual rather than an office block in Las Vegas was less about the philosophy of the Judge and more about the fact that the IP was the only assets the business held.

This doesn't speak to the viability or legality of copyright trolling.

Re:Actual Summary (3, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#39352691)

If anything the business model is validated to an extent. They still wreaked havoc on the defendant, and the defendant can't recover their costs since there is nothing to recover.

That is the problem with IP trolls - they require little capital to operate, and the companies they go after have quite a bit of capital (in most cases). So, they have little downside and considerable upside. In theory a single lawyer could work for a half-dozen of them, so that if one hits the jackpot it can pay out to its shareholders and divest itself of assets to prepare for the next suit, and if one loses it just folds.

Re:Actual Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39357863)

I'm not sure I mind this, lets the patents they can't hold up in court die. Better than vaguely waving a patent to scare people off.

Re:Actual Summary (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369809)

Yeah, but the next time they sue somebody their target will be more likely to roll over without a fight.

Sure, if they fight they're likely to win, but they're also likely not to recover anything. So, as long as the troll asks for less money than the cost of litigation, the defendent may roll over.

That is the problem with the legal system - you lose even if you win.

Oh the sweet irony! (4, Interesting)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351379)

TFA: "...ordered Righthaven to surrender for auction the 278 copyrighted news articles that were the subject of its lawsuits"

Company gives Righthaven "right to sue" on their article
Righthaven sues bloggers who use article
Court tells Righthaven that the "right to sue" doesn't exist
Company gives Righthaven all rights
Righthaven goes down in flames
Bloggers get ownership of articles

I know it's really going to their lawyers, but the premise is enough to make me smile :)

-d

Re:Oh the sweet irony! (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#39352713)

No, the bloggers just get the right to sue over the articles, which a court has already ruled is without value, and which they wouldn't use anyway because they're not .

Re:Oh the sweet irony! (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 2 years ago | (#39358007)

It's almost like you only read the first three lines...

Re:Oh the sweet irony! (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369947)

Nah - I just misread line 4. Whoops...

Not sure it is likely to happen though, unless Righthaven speculatively purchased those rights for a considerable fee (not unlike what happens with debt collectors - they buy your $1k loan for $300, and then they make a profit if they can get more than that).

Re:Oh the sweet irony! (1)

mutewinter (688449) | more than 2 years ago | (#39357157)

Perfect 10's little scheme had a similar effect. They bought copyright's to Hegre-Art nude photos for the purpose of suing Google Images. Guess who showed up in Google Images with those pictures, Hegre-Art affiliates.

Re:Oh the sweet irony! (1)

mutewinter (688449) | more than 2 years ago | (#39357171)

Correction, suing Google over Google Images results.

Dear Troll (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39351405)

All your bridge are belong to us.

A fitting end... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39351563)

He who lives by the lawsuit, dies by the lawsuit

news like this makes me laugh (1)

webdragon (788788) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351621)

And i needed a good laugh this morning. Thanks Soulskill

A win? (1)

milkman479 (1017240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351679)

This feels like a win for the system IMO. It's like when Jack Thompson lost his ability to practice law. Now maybe we can free up the courts to process celebrity divorces faster!

Re:A win? (2)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39353613)

That's not good enough.

With how brazenly he's defying the court orders I don't think anything short of clapping him in irons and throwing him behind bars is going to do for what is probably very blatant contempt of court.

Pro's not a pro (1)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351775)

Finally, a judge who isn't bought out!

Re:Pro's not a pro (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 2 years ago | (#39351857)

His name is Judge Pro.

Re:Pro's not a pro (2)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 2 years ago | (#39352287)

Right, it was a play on words.

Ep.7.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39352045)

Only 278? (1)

residieu (577863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39352133)

This was all about just 278 articles?

I predict they will be bought by the startup LeftHaven, which will continue where RightHaven left off.

Re:Only 278? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39352705)

Yeah, this just gives them more parameters to work with so they don't make the same mistakes next time.

Now kill the patent trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39352565)

I hope

Too Bad They Had None (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#39353251)

Their going down in flames was due to them not owning any of the IP they were suing over. So I don't think they actually had any.

Re:Too Bad They Had None (1)

argmanah (616458) | more than 2 years ago | (#39357613)

That was true initially, but after the problem was realized they got full ownership over much of the IP. As of now they do own a few hundred articles.... Well, I mean, as of before this ruling. They are again back to owning 0 now.

I didn't even know that was upgradable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39355983)

All these lawsuits with ridiculous outcomes or silly lawsuits that take 5-10 years to be thrown out are ruled on by a Judge.

This one was relatively quickly decided correctly by a Judge Pro.

How do you upgrade to Judge Pro? Is there a monthly fee or something?

Kickstarter! (1)

Blue23 (197186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39359835)

Man, someone start a Kickstarter to purchase this, with the sole intention of requiring licensing or takedown from the original copyright owners who assigned their rights to Righthaven to sue with.

We all kick in a few bucks, buy it out, and get to serve delicious irony on those who were trolling for $$.

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