Attorneys fighting Las Vegas copyright lawsuit company Righthaven LLC are asking a judge to freeze $3,815 in Righthaven assets so they can get paid.
Randazza Legal Group of Las Vegas, which represented former Righthaven defendant Michael Leon for a short time, filed a motion Saturday for a preliminary injunction barring Righthaven from disgorging $3,815 of liquid assets until it pays Randazza Legal Group’s fees.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro this week ordered Righthaven to pay those fees, but Saturday’s motion alleges it’s likely Righthaven will take steps to avoid paying the award.
Randazza attorney J. Malcolm DeVoy IV said in a court declaration to Navarro that after Navarro awarded the fees to his firm, he talked with a Righthaven attorney.
Based on that conversation, "I do not believe Righthaven intends to pay fees to Randazza Legal Group in this matter, nor any defendant."
"I further believe, based on past experience and my latest interactions with Righthaven’s counsel, that it is Righthaven’s goal to not honor this court’s order or judgment, and it will liquidate, disgorge or otherwise conceal its assets in order to do so — an outcome facilitated by its business model as a limited liability company owned by two other limited liability companies," DeVoy said in the declaration.
Righthaven, which has filed 274 copyright infringement lawsuits over Las Vegas Review-Journal and Denver Post material since March 2010, is half owned by a limited liability company controlled by Las Vegas attorney and Righthaven CEO Steven Gibson.
The other half is owned by a limited liability company owned by members of the family of Little Rock, Ark., investment banking billionaire Warren Stephens.
The Stephens family also owns Stephens Media LLC, owner of the Review-Journal.
Righthaven’s copyright infringement litigation campaign has stumbled in recent months after the firm suffered three fair use losses and two judges in Nevada found it doesn’t have standing to sue. Three more judges in Nevada and Colorado are also threatening to dismiss Righthaven lawsuits for lack of standing.
In Saturday’s court filing, DeVoy noted his firm is also seeking $34,000 in fees for successfully representing defendant Wayne Hoehn in a Righthaven case, while attorneys for prevailing defendant Thomas DiBiase are seeking another $119,000 in fees from Righthaven.
Additional, larger fee awards are possible against Righthaven, particularly in its heavily-litigated suit against the Democratic Underground.
That’s the case where U.S. District Court Judge Roger Hunt dismissed Righthaven for lack of standing and is threatening to sanction Righthaven for misrepresentations.
While Righthaven says its lawsuits are needed to deter rampant online infringement of newspaper content, critics say it’s simply running a litigation shakedown operation.
Critics say defendants including nonprofits, people with disabilities and veterans are hit with no-warning lawsuits demanding $150,000 in damages and forfeiture of their website domain names – only to see Righthaven agree to settle for as little as $1,000 with payments of $100 per month.
"In light of Righthaven’s conduct in litigation within this district and across the nation, this remedy is appropriate to ensure that Righthaven’s victims are not once again harmed through voluntary insolvency or other financial sleight of hand. Righthaven has engaged in extreme conduct, and fee awards imposed upon it must be paid. Otherwise, Righthaven will evade liability for its actions,'' DeVoy wrote in Saturday’s filing seeking an injunction against Righthaven.
"As journalists have discovered that Righthaven is supported in part by a $500,000 investment from Stephens Media LLC, its ability to set aside $3,815 should not pose a hardship to Righthaven," DeVoy wrote in his filing.
Righthaven has not yet responded to Saturday’s motion for an injunction.
The filing came one day after the Righthaven/Denver Post lawsuit contract was made public, a document suggesting Righthaven doesn’t have standing to sue over Denver Post material under copyright case law.
For instance, Righthaven doesn’t appear to have the exclusive rights needed to be a copyright plaintiff under this contract.
It says: "Despite any copyright assignment, publisher shall retain an exclusive license to exploit the publisher-assigned copyrights for any lawful purpose whatsoever and Righthaven shall have no right or license to exploit or participate in the receipt of royalties from the exploitation of the publisher-assigned copyrights other than the rights to proceed in association with a (lawsuit) recovery."
This is the type of language that caused the two Nevada federal judges to reject Righthaven’s standing to sue over Review-Journal material, as copyright plaintiffs have to have exclusive control of copyrights they sue over.
Also, the Denver Post contract with its parent, MediaNews Group Inc., confirms that several other MediaNews newspapers are included in the contract for Righthaven’s no-warning lawsuits – but so for no lawsuits have been filed over content from those newspapers.
Those papers are the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times in Northern California, the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minn.; the El Paso Times, the Los Angeles Daily News, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Oakland Tribune, the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Torrance Daily Breeze in Southern California.
Also Friday, Righthaven disclosed a second set of amendments to its Stephens Media lawsuit contract as it tries to salvage its right to sue over Review-Journal material.