Attorneys accuse Righthaven of settlement shakedown

Sun archives

Defense attorneys are complaining that Las Vegas copyright enforcement company Righthaven LLC is trying to force defendants into settling by running up legal bills with its aggressive litigation tactics.

These cases pit Righthaven, which sues over online infringements of Las Vegas Review-Journal stories, against the Las Vegas office of the law firm Lewis and Roca LLP.

Lewis and Roca, with at least five attorneys working on Righthaven cases, appears to be the busiest law firm when it comes to defending Righthaven defendants in litigation and settlements.

Lewis and Roca has been aggressive in its defense, accusing Righthaven of running a settlement shakedown operation involving frivolous no-warning lawsuits.

Lewis and Roca also won an important ruling giving defendants hope that they didn't infringe on Review-Journal copyrights because the Review-Journal encourages online sharing of its stories.

The latest dispute between Righthaven and Lewis and Roca is over whether discovery should get under way before judges rule on Lewis and Roca motions to dismiss in at least three cases.

In these cases, Righthaven attorneys say they want to proceed with "Rule 26(f)" conferences -- but Lewis and Roca attorneys want the conferences delayed until judges rule on their motions for dismissal.

Such conferences are required in federal lawsuits to plan for discovery, or the collection of information and evidence, and so the parties "can consider the nature and basis of their claims and defenses and the possibilities for promptly settling or resolving the case."

In the case of Canadian defendant MajorWager, Lewis and Roca attorneys Nikkya Williams, Michael McCue and Jonathan Fountain wrote in a recent filing: "Notwithstanding the likelihood that the court will soon rule on MajorWager's motion to dismiss, Righthaven is insisting that the parties proceed with a Rule 26(f) conference, which, of course, would trigger the deadline for making initial disclosures and commencing discovery."

"Righthaven is apparently attempting to put pressure on MajorWager, a foreign defendant, to incur potentially unnecessary attorneys' fees and costs in an effort to compel MajorWager to accede to Righthaven's settlement demands," the attorneys wrote in asking the court to delay the conference.

Similar requests for judges to delay the Rule 26(f) conferences were made by Lewis and Roca in at least two other cases involving in New Hampshire and the Vote For the Worst LLC website in Utah.

In all these cases, Lewis and Roca noted there's no hurry to proceed with litigation since Righthaven isn't seeking temporary or preliminary injunctions to have material removed from websites. Righthaven's lawsuits focus on past infringements and the Lewis and Roca attorneys noted that in these cases the material has already been removed from the websites.

Lewis and Roca also said there's ample legal precedent to dismiss the three cases involving out-of-state defendants. They're arguing the Nevada court doesn't have subject matter and personal jurisdiction over the defendants given the trivial nature of the infringements in two of the cases, the fact the infringing material was posted by third parties in all three cases and the lack of contacts all three defendants have with Nevada.

Righthaven, however, says there's no need to delay the discovery process since Lewis and Roca stands little chance of succeeding with its motions to dismiss.

"MajorWager's unwillingness to agree to participate in a Rule 26(f) conference has prolonged the limited discovery required in this case and displayed a nonchalant attitude, if not blatant disregard, for the Local Rules and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure," Righthaven attorneys J. Charles Coons and Joseph Chu wrote in a filing this week.

"MajorWager's assumptions that Righthaven's Rule 26(f) requests have been unreasonable and an attempt to ratchet up attorney's fees are the exact opposite of Righthaven's actual intentions," they wrote.

The issues of liability and damages appear to lend themselves to settlement by way of a Rule 26(f) conference, they wrote in the MajorWager case.

"If a Rule 26(f) conference was held in good faith and both parties respected the intention of the Rule 26(f) conference to provide a forum for settlement discussions, it would limit both attorneys' fees and judicial resources," the Righthaven filing said.

Righthaven, which has sued at least 146 website operators since March, separately reached settlements with four more defendants. These bring to at least 47 the number of settlements Righthaven has reached, the terms of which are confidential in most cases.

The latest publicly-disclosed settlements involve defendants:

--Swadeep Nigam

--Rawguru Inc.

--Dan Cirucci

--The Above Network