In yet another stunning reversal for Las Vegas copyright lawsuit filer Righthaven LLC, the company won’t be collecting any damages from a man it once branded as a copyright infringer.
Instead, it’s Righthaven that must pay the man's legal fees of $34,045.
U.S. District Judge Philip Pro awarded the fees Monday in the case of Kentucky message board poster Wayne Hoehn.
Pro on June 20 dismissed Righthaven’s lawsuit against Hoehn, finding Righthaven didn’t have standing to sue him and even if it did, Hoehn was protected by the fair use doctrine in posting an entire Las Vegas Review-Journal column on a sports betting website message board. Righthaven's lack of standing was due to the R-J maintaining control of the column despite Righthaven's claims of ownership.
Righthaven is appealing the dismissal. But Pro, in the meantime, on Monday ordered Righthaven by Sept. 14 to pay Hoehn’s fees and costs for his representation by Randazza Legal Group of Las Vegas.
Pro, in a short order, rejected arguments by Righthaven that since he dismissed the case he didn’t have jurisdiction in the lawsuit to award fees to anyone.
Hoehn’s attorneys called that argument "bizarre’’ since Pro’s ruling covered the merits of Righthaven’s lawsuit, not jurisdictional issues.
Pro on Monday noted both the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the federal Copyright Act permit the recovery of attorney’s fees and costs for a prevailing party.
"In this case, the court finds that defendant Hoehn is the prevailing party and the attorney’s fees and costs sought on his behalf are reasonable and supported by defendant’s Memorandum of Law,’’ Pro wrote in his order.
This is the second attorney’s fee award against Righthaven. Earlier, Randazza Legal Group was awarded $3,815 for representing defendant Michael Leon.
But these are likely just the tip of the iceberg, with several cases dismissed based on Righthaven’s lack of standing and more dismissals likely.
Prevailing defendant Thomas DiBiase is asking for $199,250 while the Democratic Underground will likely seek a fee award of many hundreds of thousands of dollars after Righthaven was dismissed from that suit for lack of standing.
The bottom line for Righthaven is, as of Monday, it has not won a single lawsuit – of 275 lawsuits filed since 2010 – on the merits.
Instead, four judges have dismissed Righthaven suits over R-J material for lack of standing.
A fifth judge may do the same with suits in Denver over Denver Post material.
But it gets worse.
Three cases have been dismissed on fair use grounds, two cases have now resulted in attorney’s fee awards against Righthaven and Righthaven has been fined $5,000 by one of the judges for misleading the court about key information in its R-J cases.