Judge unseals Review-Journal/Righthaven contract

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A federal judge in Las Vegas on Friday unsealed the agreement for prosecuting copyright infringement lawsuits between Righthaven LLC and Las Vegas Review-Journal owner Stephens Media LLC.

As expected, the Jan. 18, 2010, Strategic Alliance Agreement shows the previously-confidential deal calls for Stephens Media to receive a cut of Righthaven's lawsuit proceeds, minus costs. That cut is 50 percent.

Over the objections of Righthaven and Stephens Media, Chief U.S. District Judge for Nevada Roger Hunt issued an order allowing the public to see the agreement allowing for copyrights from Stephens Media to be assigned to Righthaven for lawsuit purposes.

Laurence Pulgram, an attorney representing Righthaven defendant the Democratic Underground in the case, said this agreement shows Righthaven only obtains limited rights -- and this discovery may undermine all of Righthaven's lawsuits over Review-Journal material.

"By rejecting Righthaven's and Stephens Media's efforts to keep the document secret, Chief Judge Hunt has allowed the various victims of Righthaven's campaign of intimidation to know the truth. The document in question, a Strategic Alliance Agreement, gave Righthaven the right to sue on Stephens' Media's copyrights, but no other rights in the copyrights, which we believe will defeat Righthaven's standing to sue any of those it has targeted," said Pulgram, an attorney associated with the Electronic Frontier Foundation with the San Francisco law firm Fenwick & West LLP.

Defense attorneys fighting Righthaven say that in order to sue, Righthaven must have complete ownership of the copyrights. They say that providing Righthaven only rights to sue undermines the purposes of the Copyright Act.

"Righthaven’s practices create a secondary commodities market for copyrights, or exclusive subsidiary rights in copyrights, to be used only in suing others who may have valid defenses, but cannot afford to raise them – or engage counsel whatsoever," said a filing Thursday by attorneys in another case representing the Media Bloggers Association.

"This is inimical to the purpose of the Copyright Act, which was intended to protect the intellectual investments of creators, rather than creating lawsuit mills that use registered copyrights – only after their infringement was discovered – as a source of income, rather than a shield against others’ misappropriation."

"As many defendants in Righthaven actions have argued, Righthaven does not truly own the copyrights it sues over,'' Marc John Randazza, one of the attorneys for the Media Bloggers Association, said Friday in a blog post titled in part "Does the House of Cards Collapse?"

He said Righthaven's lawsuits seem to run afoul of case law.

Righthaven has disputed this argument about its lawsuits.

It's unknown if Righthaven's lawsuit arrangement with the Denver Post provides only limited rights. If so, defense attorneys may argue that deal undermines those suits as well.

Righthaven's 264 lawsuits filed since March 2010 over Review-Journal and Denver Post material have attracted attention in media and legal circles nationwide, as they're a departure from the usual practice in the newspaper industry of asking that infringing online content be taken down before resorting to litigation.

Hunt's ruling came Friday in a Righthaven lawsuit against the Democratic Underground over the partial posting of a Review-Journal story -- and a Democratic Underground counterclaim against Righthaven and Stephens Media.



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  1. This is the smoking gun. Stevens Media and Righthaven have entered into an illegal arrangement. This should not only close every case but require Righthaven to refund every penny in settlements and then some. Righthaven is about to be sued out of existence. Righthaven is finished and there is a good chance Gibson along with some Stevens Media executives will face criminal charges as well.

  2. Righthaven maintains that copyright infringement is rampant on the Internet. It probably is.

    So why not operate as a service that finds blatant infringement, notify the copyright owner, and collect a finders fee? The copyright owner can then sue using normal methods with an attorney on a contingency fee.

    This might not fit the classic definition for champerty, but it sure fits the spirit.

  3. Righthaven could have just represented Stevens Media like a legitimate law firm but Stevens Media did not want all the bad publicity associated with it so they devised this scheme to allow Righthaven to merely claim copyright ownership. The problem is that Righthaven has perjured themselves on every court filing claiming they are the owners of the copyright as well as falsely filed themselves as the copyright owners with the US copyright office. This needs to be investigated in the criminal courts because this smacks of fraud.

  4. "Despite any such Copyright Assignment, Stephens Media
    shall retain (and is hereby granted by Righthaven) an exclusive
    license to Exploit the Stephens Media 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 Stephens Media Assigned Copyrights
    other than the right to proceeds in association with a Recovery.."

    However in their court filings:

    7. Righthaven is the owner of the copyright in and to the Work.

    30. Righthaven holds the exclusive right to reproduce the Work, pursuant to 17

    31. Righthaven holds the exclusive right to prepare derivative works based upon the
    Work, pursuant to 17 U.S.C. 106(2).

    32. Righthaven holds the exclusive right to distribute copies of the Work, pursuant to
    17 U.S.C. 106(3).

    33. Righthaven holds the exclusive right to publicly display the Work, pursuant to 17

  5. "Does the House of Cards Collapse?"

    It sure do...
    Squirmy Shermy & Stevie the WonderAttorney and their little scam has just hit a brick wall....HARD!

    It's been a rough week for the dynamic duo of SuperSuedom..

  6. Sgt Rock has been wrong every step of the way. None of his predictions has ever come to pass with Righthaven.

  7. Someone at the RJ had a couple of brain cells working:

    "11. Stephens Media's Potential Liability.
    Stephens Media understands and acknowledges that Stephens Media and Righthaven may
    be liable for an Infringer's attorneys' fees as required by Law in connection with an Infringement
    Action. Stephens Media further understands that a lawsuit brought solely to harass or to coerce a
    settlement may result in liability for malicious prosecution or abuse of process. If any Claim
    made by an Infringer in an Infringement Action results in Losses, other than Losses described in
    Section 8, Righthaven shall be solely liable for such Losses and shall indemnify Stephens Media
    from and against any such Losses but only if such Losses do not arise out of a misrepresentation
    by Stephens Media or other breach by Stephens Media of a provision of this Agreement."

  8. And here is the clause that lets any AP subscriber off the hook (can you say AP distribution of the "pat-down" photo? Assuming the Denver Post had a similar agreement.):

    "9.3. Stephens Media shall not sell, grant any Encumbrance on or in or assign, any of
    Stephens Media Assigned Copyrights to any third Person during the Term absent prior written
    approval of Righthaven;"

  9. Rock, I cannot even comment on your post because it is utterly incoherent.

  10. So, renting or leasing your copyright is the way to do it. Seems Righthaven lied in their complaints.

  11. <<The ballgame is far far from over.>>

    how long after a ballgame has ended do you sit in your seat, Sargent Frederick? 30 minutes? an hour? a week?

    and who is going to pay for a supreme court challenge? Reichaven? get serious. they're bleeding money now. even a trip to the 9th busts out the finical model --- let alone to the supremes.

    this was an idiotic idea to begin with, dreamed up by two greedy parties -- and if the end isn't here it's certainly very near. there's no way the court is going to get used like this --- period. or do you think judges are so stupid as to think that wet on their leg is rain and not the pee of Gibons? get serious.

    >> (Shhhhh....don't tell anybody but the Greenspun operation hates the LVRJ)

    that might be --- but at least they keep it to themselves --- unlike the paranoid little and former publisher of the RJ, who never misses a beat when breaking out his broad green brush of envy.

    But hang onto the losing side Rock. It fits you well. Perfectly as a matter of fact.

  12. Righthaven's website is down and their lawyers are jumping ship. I have a feeling Righthaven is preparing to go out of business.