Attorneys seek fee injunction against Righthaven

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.

Business

Share

Previous Discussion:

Discussion 15 comments

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Seems people are starting to take Righthaven apart piece by piece.

    Betting we see another court appearance by the end of the year but it will be in a BK court. They are going to wait until all the judgments arrive then file fast.

  2. The following is my opinion as a non-lawyer.

    The Restatement does in fact address several of the defects, including Section 3 of the SAA. Not knowing what verbal agreements have been reached, there has been a substantial shift (on paper) in the relationship between Righthaven and Stephens Media.

    The most notable change, though, might be a deal-breaker for other customers such as MediaNews if it is incorporated into their agreement.

    Specifically, the minimum term of the agreement is 5 years and 1 day from *the date of the last copyright assignment*. Maybe Stephens Media is willing to place that much trust in RH, but I don't see any major news operation agreeing to that. According to the theory Gibson wants us to believe, if RH happened to find a real market for the works other than pursuing infringements, RH could keep all profits and the original producer would have no rights to share in it.

    The bottom line is that the agreement now says, in effect, that RH has purchased the copyright in full from SM in exchange for sharing 50% of any recovery from all past, present and future infringements of the copyright. RH is basically purchasing the right to gamble and SM is providing the dice.

    What is not clear is what would happen if RH found a new market for the assigned work and *that* new use was infringed upon. Would SM be entitled to share in a recovery from that infringement? I would think so based upon current wording.

    I would be surprised if Judge Hunt or Judge Pro allows this to be fully retroactive in effect. The Restatement is making wholesale changes to the original SAA that goes beyond a clarification for reasons Judge Hunt put forth.

    I also doubt MN would want to hitch their wagon to RH for the next five years given the crap they have had to deal with already so I don't think we will see them sign an amended agreement with these terms. And the result of not doing that will most likely be Judge Kane dismissing all pending suits in Colorado under the existing agreement.

  3. Randazza Legal Group should consider doing what a lawyer did with Bank of America after they refused to pay the legal fees after being sued for wrongful foreclosure. The lawyer brought a Sheriff along with a padlock and seized the bank including all money and assets until the bank produced the money.

  4. Just for ha-ha's these lawyers counter suing RH for fees should also demand their domain names.

  5. Actually, they probably could, especially in the case of Eiser since she is bringing a new suit not based on copyright law which has no provision for that. The irony is that based on the statements made in this story they could justify asking for the domain name since RH might not have other assets available to satisfy the damages.

    Can you imagine what EFF might put on the webpage if they controlled righthaven.com ?

  6. Hey RIGHTHAVEN how does it feel to be the center of court action finally. I would take pleasure in showing up at your office door with the Police or Marshall's and locking you out of your office since you seem to take pleasure in going after guys like myself who print articles and then give full credit to the source.

    I wonder if the Wynn wants to open a line of betting if Righthaven will be in business by January 1, 2012 or if they will have filled for BK protection by then. My feelings are is that they knew that this day was coming from the beginning and I think they have a plan to get rid of any assets to avoid paying for their pure and simple BS that they are pulling.

  7. @PGelsman and lets not forget going after the Review Journal since they are in partner ship with Righthaven. After all they are the ones that are participating in this shame lawsuit business also.

    I would love to see the RJ website seized by somebody else and also since the RJ is a partner that the attorneys should show up at the RJ building and seize all of their assets too.

  8. I just checked out Righthaven's "website" what a joke it is. Just one page and not much there.

    To quote a line from one of my favorite movies "You see that light flashing in the corner of your eye, that's your career dissipation light and it just went into high gear."

  9. "Opinion as a non-lawyer....:" Nice to have an opinion as an attorney or non-attorney, but the opinion of the Bench (or Jury) is the only one that counts.
    "Righthaven's 'website' what a joke." Who care's?
    "Hey RIGHTHAVEN how does it feel to be the center of court action finally..." I'm not certain if RH (and the RJ) aren't now looking for a way out this. If I were to guess it's a "ooops..." and could cost Stephens the sale of the paper without future liabilities.
    "I wonder if the Wynn wants to open a line of betting if Righthaven will be in business by January 1, 2012..." Perhaps InTrade will.
    "Randazza Legal Group should consider doing what a lawyer did with Bank of America after they refused to pay the legal fees after being sued for wrongful foreclosure..." Give the acute legal capabilities of Randazza, I'm sure the firm has considered all possibilities."
    "Seems people are starting to take Righthaven apart piece by piece." In my view, there seems little question that neither Righthaven nor the RJ were particulary strategic in taking these actions...it's not the first time such things have happened.
    "The Reichklaven meltdown will go down in history as more embarassing than the nude honeymoon pictures of Tanya Harding." Don't insult Tanya.

  10. Since Righthaven is insisting they "own" the copyrights to the LVRJ stories then those are assets that could be seized.

  11. Wow..it's interesting how comments on these articles look more than a chat room where messages are sent to one another instead of people just writing down their opinion...Lots of lonely people in this town.

  12. Ken,

    You should be glad that some of the various defendants can NOT ask to seize the copyrights that Righthaven claims to own. If they could, then that would show that Righthaven did in fact have ownership and therefore standing. This would be okay in the case of the three cases dismissed on "fair use" grounds, but would truly suck for others.

    There have been some really bad decisions handed down in the course of this saga, let's hope it doesn't get worse.

  13. If the creditors seized "Righthaven's" copyrights, what do you think such limited "rights" (which more akin to profits than rights) would bring at auction? Probably nothing or close to nothing. That would set up having to decide the question of piercing the veil of Righthaven LLC.

  14. As I have mentioned previously, even in such a pro-corporate law state as Nevada, FRAUD allows piercing of the corporate veil. There is an abundance of basis for such an argument here. Gibson and his cohorts, regardless of the assets Righthaven may hold in the end, may still be in the hook for any judgments against the company.

  15. I haven't heard from Sgt. Rock I would like to get his view on this.