Attorney complains about anti-Righthaven campaign

A Las Vegas lawyer for copyright company Righthaven LLC complained Friday that opposing attorneys are engaged in “scorched-earth, anti-Righthaven litigation tactics.”

Righthaven as a company is regularly criticized for its 275 no-warning lawsuits charging that websites, bloggers and message board posters used content from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post without authorization.

The criticism is that the suits are unnecessary as the defendants would have complied with takedown requests and that rather than protecting copyrights, Righthaven is running a money-making scheme involving dubious legal claims and shake-down legal tactics.

Righthaven and its partners at the Review-Journal regularly respond that the lawsuits were needed to crack down on rampant online theft of newspaper industry content.

Lately, the Righthaven criticism has been targeted at its main outside attorney, Shawn Mangano.

Attorneys at Randazza Legal Group in Las Vegas, which represents several Righthaven lawsuit defendants in Nevada and Colorado, stepped up the pressure on Mangano on Oct. 25, when they asked a Nevada federal judge to sanction him.

The sanctions motion charged that Mangano regularly uses stall tactics so Righthaven can avoid paying judgments to defendants who defeat the company in court.

The motion also alleged Mangano continues to prosecute Righthaven lawsuits over Review-Journal content – causing defendants to spend money fighting the suits — even though Righthaven has no hope of winning the suits.

That’s because of prior court decisions finding Nevada federal judges lacked jurisdiction to hear the lawsuits because Righthaven didn’t control the copyrights it was suing over.

The sanctions motion asked Nevada Chief U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Jones to require that Mangano pay $11,925 in attorney’s fees incurred by one of the Righthaven defendants, news aggregator NewsBlaze LLC.

Randazza Legal Group is also representing the Righthaven defendant who gained a court order requiring U.S. Marshals to seize $63,720 in Righthaven assets to cover unpaid legal fees and; in another case, a defendant who won a $33,147 fee award against Righthaven on Thursday in Colorado.

Mangano fired back on Friday, filing with the court several letters and emails he had received from Randazza attorneys.

In one of the emails, Randazza attorney Marc Randazza suggested Righthaven CEO Steven Gibson, a Las Vegas attorney, was behind Righthaven’s litigation strategy that Randazza Legal Group objects to.

For instance, Randazza asked, if Righthaven can’t afford to gain a bond to guarantee payment of defendants’ attorney’s fees, how can it afford to appeal adverse court decisions?

“You aren’t this much of a (expletive). Stop letting Gibson make you look like one. He can’t be paying you enough to make it worth it,” Randazza wrote in a Sept. 29 email to Mangano.

In a letter dated Monday, Randazza attorney J. Malcolm DeVoy IV offered to drop the sanctions motion against Mangano and to not ask Jones to award attorney’s fees in the NewsBlaze case in return for a payment of $8,000.

Mangano in his filing Friday said he’s discussing this letter with the State Bar of Nevada as it potentially put him in a conflict of interest position — by urging Righthaven to pay the $8,000, he stood to personally benefit by having the sanctions motion withdrawn.

“I interpreted Mr. DeVoy’s correspondence as attempting to persuade me into seeking that an $8,000 payment was made by my client to his firm so that I would avoid any further potential professional embarrassment by an adverse decision reached by this court. I have sought the advice of counsel with the State Bar of Nevada as a result of Mr. DeVoy’s letter given its tenor and its implication on the attorney-client relationship with my client,” Mangano wrote in his filing.

Overall, Mangano wrote, he’s not taken actions that typically result in sanctions like in bad faith unnecessarily prolonging the Righthaven cases.

Rather, Mangano said, he’s “attempted to zealously advocate my client’s position on an intensely disputed issue of jurisdiction in this case and in several other cases.”

“I believe that my client will eventually prevail on this jurisdiction issue on appeal,” Mangano wrote.

The sanctions motion against him, Mangano wrote, resulted from the Randazza attorneys being frustrated at their inability to recover attorney’s fees from Righthaven or even a bond to ensure they will be paid should Righthaven lose its appeals.

The sanctions motion, he wrote, “is wholly consistent with the Randazza Legal Group’s scorched-earth, anti-Righthaven litigation tactics that have now apparently focused on tarnishing the professional reputation (of counsel).”

Jones hasn't indicated when he may rule on the sanctions motion.



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Discussion 15 comments

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  1. The sanctions motion, he wrote, "is wholly consistent with the Randazza Legal Group's scorched-earth, anti-Righthaven litigation tactics that have now apparently focused on tarnishing the professional reputation (of counsel)."

    Ahhhhh when you sleep with dogs you will get flea's

  2. If anyone would know about "scorched-earth tactics" it would be the group from Righthaven.

    It appears their poorly thought out business plan is coming back to bite them and cost them a lot of money.

    Wondering who they will hire for their BK filing?

  3. I would normally comment, "Who are these people?" But given it was a last gasp effort by disgraced "publisher," Sherm Frederick to develop a "revenue stream," worthy of a plot in Beckett play, what more can we expect.

  4. Chunky says:

    Cry me river!

    That's what Chunky thinks!

  5. Noi warning lawsuits filed under a statute that doesn't require warnings. As long as the idiots at the Sun keep reporting this story this way I am going to keep reminding them they are idiots. You have less credibility with me now than ever as a news agency. And Righthaven's attorney complaining about being treated badly by the mean bullies is just too funny. They are getting what they deserve.

  6. Well, Scott, let's suppose an alternate Universe, one in which Righthaven chose to follow a different path: (1) they discover what might be an infringement of copyright, (2) the wrote a letter to the possible infringement, (3) they followed up with a 2nd letter, and (4) if -- and only if -- the conduct continued unabated, they filed suit, and (5) at all times they kept their big mouths shut about their "business plan." In that alternate Universe: A. There would have been far fewer suits filed, making it less likely that Court Calendars could become clogged. B. Counsel for Righthaven would have weeded out the small fry, the penitent, and the prudent from the knowing, willful bad actors. C. Righthaven's conduct would have been consistent with that of a proprietor trying to preserve and protect its' assets and D. Righthaven's conduct would have been inconsistent with abusing the Court system for the sake of profit and would not have threatened to bring the Courts into disrepute.

    There would still have been the question of standing.

  7. "A Las Vegas lawyer for copyright company Righthaven LLC complained Friday that opposing attorneys are engaged in "scorched-earth, anti-Righthaven litigation tactics."

    Righthaven pot, meet kettle...

    "In the general course of human nature, a power over a man's subsistence amounts to a power over his will." -- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Paper 79, 1787-88

  8. I suppose Mr. Bourne has replaced Sarge, neither of whom have much of an idea of the meaning or nature of news, nor the societal issues of this matter or the impact of the credibility of the LVRJ. There is no debate over the issue of copyright violation, it was there in most if not all cases. There's simply an issue of the approach taken to rectify it. To date, as far as I can tell, not a single newspaper in the nation (outside of the Stephens system) has taken such action. And, of course, the Denver Post smartened up and stopped.

    What I believe needs to be considered is how the RJ is going to reverse its course; if it's going to sold as damaged goods; who's paying for the defenses of the RJ managers who are also being sued (the RJ, obviously) and how much it's costing Stephens. While Warren Stephens is characterized as a "billionaire," Sen. Dirksen was reputed to have said, "A billion here, a billion there and you're talking about real money." One has to wonder if the liability doesn't move all the way to the top of the organization as well.

    So, for those of you who side with this sort of action by the RJ and its minions, get an understanding of the broader issues. And, yes, I agree that we need copyright laws and copying the latest Grisham book is wrong...but news, well, it's only news for a moment.

    This is complex debate, but at the end of the day, it's the vehicle the RJ management chose to rectify a wrong, not that a wrong hadn't been done.

  9. MurrayBurns

    You are right about news stories having less copyright protection than original novels or original works. For instance, anyone can write about what they read in a news story and there is no infringement if they only paraphrase and not use the same words but if someone were to write a story about Harry Potter and the Wizarding World they could be nailed for copyright infringement even though no passages or even the same story line were used.

    When you get right down to it what the RJ was objecting to was non-journalists encroaching on their turf. They saw the Internet and blogs in particular as a threat and devised an ill-conceived way to repress their competition through the legal system. In the end judges have decided that since news stories are based on facts and not original ideas that they deserve less protection and in a free democratic society that is good since the dissemination of information is vital to maintaining a free and democratic society.

  10. I would be remiss if I didn't open this up a little bit: "When you get right down to it what the RJ was objecting to was non-journalists encroaching on their turf." That's categorically incorrect. This was a revenue stream idea, nothing more, nothing less. Judges have yet to make a determination on the copyright litigations, as you; and as to the "Hot News" issues, well, that set of parameters and rules have been around for a while.

    Regarding, "if someone were to write a story about Harry Potter and the Wizarding World they could be nailed for copyright infringement even though no passages or even the same story line were used." I really have no idea. Consider Cliff Notes, etc. I'm not lawyer so I can't comment much more on that.

    Don't give that paper credit for anything that resembles news media management. It has some fine reporters, far too many poor editors and remarkably poor news judgement when comes to selecting stories.

    And, anyone can be a "journalist" these days. It's becoming increasingly difficult to find a "reporter."

    I do absolutely believe that Mr. Frederick should be drummed out of the so-called Nevada News Hall of Fame or whatever they call it; and that the RJ should issue an apology to community.

    Beyond that, it'll be interesting if anything really gets to Court, as at that point, financials will be subpoena'd and undoubtedly become public.

  11. Murrayburns

    I can't disagree with anything you said.

    There are many issues with fan fiction when others base stories on existing copyrighted works. Many authors and even some movie makers encourage fan fiction because it can make their own product more popular but others have objected and even sued for fan fiction. The problems usually occur if the fan fiction was done for profit and particularly if it involves a significant amount of money.

  12. I have no idea what "fan fiction" is. I've always thought that republishing out of copyright classics, Dickens, etc. is a great idea and certainly a potential moneymaker. For those who remain wedded to the strictest, dare I say "most conservative" responses to the foolishness of Mr. Frederick, Mr. Stephens, the RJ and Righthaven, they might well look at the "risk-reward" ratio, which at this point is miserable; the layoffs at the RJ, which one might surmise are at least in part a result of litigation costs and the apparent result that no lesson has really been learned here by the RJ.

    Now, I spent a helluva long time in the new business with one of the nation's largest newspapers. To this day, neither it, nor its equals out there, and even those on the second tier...or any tier other than Stephens have taken this sort of action.

    I say everyone forget the RJ as the progenitor of this, and go for Frederick -- he's the fool who bought into this and provoked it. This SOB should be "shunned" in the oldest fashion of the term, and, as I said earlier, tossed from Sigma Delta Chi and any other honor news organization that exists. I feel the same way about Mitchell, incidentally, and virtually every reporter or editor there who didn't step forward and say "Huh? What the hell are you thinking?"

    As for Green, this is a layup. I hope he continues and wins a national award for his coverage as at the end of the day, these stories have had an impact on newspapers around the nation -- I would guess, especially the Denver Post.

  13. Murray, if my understanding of the timeline is correct, the Strategic Alliance Agreement between Righthaven and Stephens Media was amended AFTER Sherman Frederick left. If that's right, then Stephens Media, which controls the RJ, sought to perpetuate -- not end -- its arrangement with Righthaven. Would it not be fair to argue that the amendment amounted to ratification of Righthaven's conduct by Stephens?

  14. murrayburns

    Fan fiction is either films or books or other works based on popular works such as short Star Wars based films,. These are usually done by armatures and in most cases are not done for money but as the name implies for devotion to the original such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter etc. Now even though these are copyright infringement since most do not seek permission but many movie makers, authors, etc either embrace it or at least tolerate it because the fan fiction is a good marketing tool tends to enhance the original works popularity rather than diminish it. George Lucas for one has encouraged Fan Films and even attended a Fan Film Award show where he presented the award for the Best Star Wars Fan Film.

    Others on the other hand either don't understand the benefit or they are more interested in absolute control rather than marketing building and growing their fan base.

    Where this fits it the RJ is just like fan films bloggers linking to news stories benefits the original source but the RJ and Stephens Media decided that absolute control was more important and as you said they also thought they were on to some huge money making bonanza but as we have seen their projections for success was wildly misjudged.

  15. Amended doesn't really matter to me. My understanding is that Frederick was the one inititiated the actions. Of course, Stephens Media approved it -- Frederick, if I recall correctly, was an officer of that corporation, maybe still is as he apparently "bought" a couple of its two bit newspapers. At the end of the day, he sat in the Daddy chair and approved. Whether he's gone or not makes no difference. He still has litigation personally pending; he was the publisher and therefore responsible for the paper's poor performance. The "amended" complaint doesn't enter into it. The only thing that matters is the manager who had a "little friend" with which he threatened.

    Yeah, I was in that business for a very long time and what that fellow did was deplorable -- and considered so by not only the major players in the industry, but many of the minors ones. As far as I'm concerned, he's a disgrace to the industry and this community. Further, while I'm not an attorney, I've covered a lot of legal cases and I'm seeing at least 6-5-Even that Mr. Frederick is in very deep financial trouble, notwithstanding any contractual obligations Stephens has with him. It's not unheard of for "insurance" or companies for that matter, not to cover it all. And the other sides of this litigation are, in my view, much smarter and more strategic than the "Haines & Krieger" like law firm the RJ and Stephens has.