What Sony and Spotify's secret deal really looks like

The nitty-gritty details of Sony's deal with Spotify paint a picture of a very lopsided negotiation indeed, with Sony commanding an unbelievable "most favored nation" status from the streaming music provider that entitles it to top-up payments to match other labels whose music is more popular on the service. Read the rest

Copyright trolls cut and run at suggestion that they're a front for disgraced firm Guardaley

Now that evidence has surfaced suggesting that Guardaley, a disgraced firm of German copyright trolls, is secretly behind the legal actions of notorious US trolls like Malibu Media, the US plaintiffs are running scared, asking judges to dismiss their cases before they can be dragged into a discovery process that might confirm the link.

Guardaley is seriously toxic in the USA, and any suggestion that they were pulling the strings of US plaintiffs would likely be enough to get any case booted -- and possibly result in sanctions for the lawyers representing the trolls.

The defendants in a case over downloading the B-movie Elf-Man has presented evidence that not only links Guardaley to the suit, but also suggests that Guardaley was one of the seeders of the Elf-Man bittorrent file. In other words, they were sharing the file while acting as representatives for the copyright holders, making the downloads they're suing over authorized, and not infringing. Read the rest

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Righthaven: copyright troll zombie!

Remember Righthaven, the copyright troll whose ass was handed to them by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others, who got a court to declare that fair use exists, you can't license the right to sue over a copyright without licensing the copyright itself, and terrifying random bloggers into turning over their life's savings for quoting a news-article wasn't a fit business model? They're dead and dusted, domain name sold off to pay their legal bills, but they want to rise from the grave in order to appeal key rulings against them. Read the rest

Copyright troll stripped of copyrights, which are to be sold to pay off its victims

Righthaven, the copyright troll that flamed out after a botched attempt to get rich by suing bloggers for quoting newspaper articles, has reached bottom. After having its domain seized and sold off to pay its legal bills, it is now faced with having to sell the copyrights to the aforesaid newspaper articles as well to offset more of its victims' expenses. David Kravets writes on Ars Technica:

U.S. District Judge Philip M. Pro of Nevada ordered Righthaven to surrender for auction the 278 copyrighted news articles that were the subject of its lawsuits.

"The copyright registrations to more than 275 works are in Righthaven’s name, can be transferred by this court, and can then be auctioned," the judge ruled. (.pdf)

The Righthaven.com domain was auctioned for $3,000 last year to help satisfy the legal bill the firm must pay to one of its defendants that prevailed in a copyright suit brought by Righthaven itself. The tab is more than $60,000 in the case before Judge Pro, and in total Righthaven owes about $200,000 to various defendants.

Judge orders failed copyright troll to forfeit "all" copyrights Read the rest

Fed court: quoting newspaper articles online is fair use

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Kurt Opsahl analyzes an important declaratory judgment from a Nevada federal court, which held that excerpting news articles in online postings was fair use.

Judge Roger Hunt’s judgment confirms that an online forum is not liable for its users’ posts, even if it was not protected by the safe harbors of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s notice and takedown provisions. The decision also clarifies that a common practice on the Internet – excerpting a few sentences and linking to interesting articles elsewhere – is a fair use, not an infringement of copyright.

The case is a remnant of the Righthaven copyright troll campaign, in which a newspaper owner and a lawyer formed a venture to get rich by shaking down websites. It's ended in bankruptcy, loss of investment, and an investigation from the Nevada bar.

Court Declares Newspaper Excerpt on Online Forum is a Non-Infringing Fair Use Read the rest

New Righthaven offers hosting service "with a spine"

After snatching a notorious copyright troll's name at auction, a Swiss company is turning Righthaven.com into a web hosting service. The intended customers? Publishers worried about the kind of abusive legal threats spewed out by the domain's previous owner.

"The Swiss courts don't play games and registrars here cannot be scared," said Stefan Thalberg of Ort Cloud, an ISP based in Zürich. "Frivolous plaintiffs will find little comfort here."

With hosting in Switzerland and planned in Iceland, the new Righthaven promises "infrajuridsictional infrastructure" — in other words, uptime that would require international co-operation to bring down.

The announcement comes days after a fight over anti-piracy bills in Congress, described by opponents as a threat to free speech, culminated in websites shutting down in protest. Read the rest

The new owner of Righthaven's domain hates "spineless" ISPs

Last week, a mystery bidder snatched the domain of copyright troll Righthaven at auction for just $3,300. Just now, the domain name system updated to reveal his identity: one Stefan Thalberg of Zug, Switzerland, just south of Zurich.

And at the domain itself, a mysterious "No Jellyfish" logo with the title "Take Back The Right(Haven)" and the text "Coming Soon."

In the page source, a tantalizing clue:

<!--Oh... you want a hint do you? Very well: "Does your current provider possess a spine?"-->

Thalberg's email address suggests an association with OrtCloud, a Swiss internet service provider that says it focuses on "bespoke" solutions for financial and scientific companies. Intriguingly, its homepage advertises the "privacy-friendly, regulatory-havens of Iceland and the Swiss cantons of Zürich and Zug" beneath a photograph of the Swiss National Bank.

A cursory search of associated IP addresses reveals firms in the business services and finance sector. I've asked for comment. (Update: I've received a short reply saying that there will be "updates soon")

Righthaven launched an ill-fated copyright enforcement business three years ago, but was repeatedly punished by courts unimpressed with its claim to have "licensed" the right to sue from copyright holders—and which were often unimpressed with the credibility of the underlying claims. After running out of money, Righthaven lost its domain name to creditors, which promptly auctioned it off.

One of Righthaven's most notorious shakedown strategies was to demand victims hand over their own domain names in order to head off or settle lawsuits. Read the rest

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Copyright troll Righthaven in its death throes, domain going up for auction

Copyright troll Righthaven was conceived of as a way of extorting money from websites on behalf of newspaper owners when quotations from those newspapers were posted to the web. The idea was that the newspapers would assign "the right to sue" to Righthaven, which would pursue lawsuits on their behalf, and share the take. Righthaven's primary tactic was to shotgun legal threats to everyone they could find, regardless of whether their claims had merit, and then withdraw the threat when someone stood up to them -- classic copyright trolling.

Over the years that followed public interest groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation worked with Righthaven's victims and won a string of victories, in which Righthaven's ass was repeatedly handed to them (the death blow was probably when judges began to affirm that there is no licensable "right to sue" separate from other parts of copyright).

Now Righthaven is pretty much dead. They've lost control over their domain (assigned to one of their victims, who has become a creditor of theirs, since the court awarded him costs), gone broke, and are just waiting for someone to dump them in a pauper's grave. It's possible that one of their early investors will come back and rescue them, but that would be a miracle as implausible as the climax of the Smurf's Family Christmas.

Records at Network Solutions, which tracks domain names, showed control of Righthaven’s website domain name was transferred Wednesday to Randazza Legal Group, which represents Righthaven creditor Wayne Hoehn.

However, attorney Marc Randazza said that information was incorrect and that a court-appointed receiver, attorney Lara Pearson of the Rimon Law Group in the Reno area, had control of it.

Read the rest

Righthaven copyright troll's victims send in US marshals to seize its assets

Righthaven, the copyright trolling organization that misrepresented its title to the copyrights of many of the newspaper articles at issue in its lawsuits against website operators, is now on the brink of bankruptcy. The US Marshals in Nevada have been authorized to seize $63,720.80 from it in cash or assets to pay the fines and fees owed for one of its failed legal actions. For more of Righthaven's keystone kops antics, see our earlier stories.

In August, the case Righthaven v. Hoehn was tossed by a federal judge in Nevada, who went a step further and declared that defendant Wayne Hoehn's complete copy of a newspaper article in a sub-forum on the site "Madjack Sports" was fair use. On August 15, the judge awarded $34,045.50 to the Randazza Legal Group, which represented Hoehn. Righthaven, which had spent so much time thundering to defendants about just how badly the federal courts would make them pay... didn't pay.

Instead, it filed a flurry of appeals alleging (among other things) that having to pay the money would involve "the very real threat of being forced out of business or being forced to seek protection through bankruptcy." Righthaven contended that it could eventually win the case on appeal and thus should not be bankrupted before it had the chance to make its case.

But the increasingly disorganized organization couldn't even get its appellate filings in on time. Yesterday, Righthaven had to admit that it missed the October 31 deadline for its opening brief in the case.

Read the rest

Copyright troll handed ass (again), tries saddest trick ever to get out of paying its victim's legal bills

Everyone's favorite copyright troll Righthaven has once again had its ass handed to it. The company, which was spun out of a Nevada newspaper, sublicenses the right to sue people from copyright holders, then sends legal threats to bloggers and website owners who publish articles or images from newspapers, including short quotations or thumbnails. Judges keep telling Righthaven that this isn't legal -- there's no such thing as a sub-licensable right to sue -- but Righthaven keeps on keeping on.

This time, they sued a user on a sports-book message board, who pasted two complete op-eds into a sub-sub board on the system. Not only did the judge rule that this was fair use (an eye-popping precedent in its own right), but it also ruled that, as usual, Righthaven didn't have any business suing the poster because they didn't own the copyright.

Here's where it gets even sadder: Righthaven then argued that it shouldn't have to pay the defendants' attorney fees because it didn't have standing to sue, so the court didn't have standing to order it to pay. The judge laughed and laughed and laughed. And told them to cough up $34,045.50.

Defense attorney J. Malcolm DeVoy was furious. "Righthaven deserves some credit for taking this position, as it requires an amazing amount of chutzpah," he wrote to the judge. "Righthaven seeks a ruling holding that, as long as a plaintiff’s case is completely frivolous, then the court is deprived of the right to make the frivolously sued defendant whole, whereas a partially frivolous case might give rise to fee liability.
Read the rest

Copyright troll's biggest fan commits terminal irony

Sherman Frederick is a great fan of Righthaven, the copyright troll spun out of the Las Vegas Review Journal where Frederick was CEO. Righthaven isn't faring well in the courts these days, and Frederick is lashing out at critics of his cherished conceit of making a fortune suing bloggers for quoting small snippets of text.

Here's where it gets good. His extended ad hominem in the Review Journal makes extensive use of poorly cited quotations from GametimeIP, a blog that -- in Frederick's view -- supports his position. These sorts of quotations are precisely the sort of quoting that Righthaven is suing over, with one important difference.

Righthaven doesn't actually have the right to sue over quotations from the Review Journal, because, as judges have ruled, the agreement that assigns "just enough copyright" to sue people is ridiculous and has no basis in law or reality.

On the otherhand, GametimeIP's author Patrick Anderson does, in fact, hold those rights, and he's putting them up for sale. Presumably, anyone who buys them could then sue Frederick on the same grounds that Righthaven used. And if Frederick won the case, it would establish that the sort of quoting Righthaven decries is fair use. If Frederick loses, well, he loses -- DMCA damages run to $150K per act of infringement.

Frederick also believes that linking without permission is illegal. In the event that he wants to link to this post, he should be aware of our linking policy.

Righthaven Cheerleader Wanted by Irony Police Read the rest

Judge to copyright troll: your lawsuits are shams, give it up

Hugh from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez ,"In a decision with likely wide-ranging impact, a judge in Las Vegas today dismissed as a sham an infringement case filed by copyright troll Righthaven LLC. The judge ruled that Righthaven did not have the legal authorization to bring a copyright lawsuit against the political forum Democratic Underground, because it had never owned the copyright in the first place. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Fenwick & West LLP, and Las Vegas attorney Chad Bowers are defending Democratic Underground."
"In dismissing Righthaven's claim in its entirety, Chief Judge Hunt's ruling decisively rejected the Righthaven business model of conveying rights to sue, alone, as a means to enforce copyrights," said Laurence Pulgram, head of copyright litigation at Fenwick & West in San Francisco. "The ruling speaks for itself. The court rejected Righthaven's claim that it owned sufficient rights in the copyright, stating that claim was 'flagrantly false--to the point that the claim is disingenuous if not outright deceitful.'"

Judge Hunt also noted that "Righthaven has made multiple inaccurate and likely dishonest statements to the Court" and rejected Righthaven's efforts to fix things after the fact with a May 9, 2011, amendment to the original assignment agreement. The judge expressed "doubt that these seemingly cosmetic adjustments change the nature and practical effect" of the invalid assignment.

As part of his ruling today, the judge ordered Righthaven to show why it should not be sanctioned for misrepresentations to the court. The Court permitted Democratic Underground's counterclaim to continue against Stephens Media -- the publisher of the Review Journal -- allowing Democratic Underground to show that it did nothing wrong in allowing a user to post a five-sentence excerpt of a 50-sentence article.

Read the rest

Righthaven copyright troll loses domain

Righthaven is the copyright trolling outfit created by the Las Vegas Review Journal to blackmail alleged newspaper copyright infringers with baseless threats of domain seizure and huge cash judgements. When they created righthaven.com as a home for information related to their indiscriminate bulk-litigation campaign, they neglected to supply the registration information required of them, and it appears that they declined to provide the info when requested to do so by their registrar, GoDaddy. So GoDaddy's taken away their domain:
Now it appears that GoDaddy, the domain registrar for the domain Righthaven.com, has taken down their domain for an invalid whois. According to ICANN rules domain owners are required to maintain valid whois information. Anyone can report an invalid whois record via the WDPRS system, which then passes on the complaint to the sponsoring registrar of the domain. The registrar would then attempt to contact the domain owner and ask them to verify/update their contact information. Should they not do so, the domain can be suspended or even deleted.
RightHaven.com Taken Down for Invalid Whois (Thanks, Clifton!) Read the rest

Righthaven copyright trolls never had the right to sue, have their asses handed to them by the EFF

Righthaven is the extortion racket spun out by the Las Vegas Review-Journal: they received a license from the Review-Journal for its copyrights, then attempted to make the license pay by threatening any blogger who quoted the newspaper with expensive lawsuits and domain confiscation. They firehosed these legal threats around without regard for their legal merits (and attracted more desperate, unethical newspapers to their client roster in the process) and so it was inevitable that eventually they'd misfire at someone who got pissed off enough to do something about it.

That someone is Democratic Underground, a political site that contacted the Electronic Frontier Foundation for legal help. EFF's lawyers got a court to force Righthaven to reveal the terms of its license with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and discovered that Righthaven's license only gives it the power to sue on the Review-Journal's behalf (that is, Righthaven doesn't actually control the Review-Journal's copyrights in any meaningful way). And that is illegal -- a license to sue is not sufficient to have standing to use the courts for redress. Democratic Underground is now seeking recovery of legal fees, which the Review-Journal and other newspaper clients may be liable for. Joe Mullin writes:

So what began as a business deal in which there was no downside for Stephens Media now looks like a situation where the company could be on the hook for a serious chunk of change. It's worth noting that the contract actually has a specific clause (see Section 11) in which Righthaven indemnifies Stephens Media in the event that attorneys' fees need to be paid to an opponent.
Read the rest

Another copyright troll throws in the towel

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation comes the heartening news that yet another "copyright troll" has given up on the shakedown tactic of using cheap John Doe lawsuits to compel ISPs to surrender details of their customers so that lawyers can threaten to sue them unless they turn over a few hundred bucks to make the whole thing go away.
Late last week, Mick Haig Productions dismissed its case against 670 "John Does," claiming they had infringed the company's copyrighted materials on a file-sharing service. The notice of dismissal came after EFF and Public Citizen argued that Mick Haig should not be allowed to send subpoenas for the Does' identifying information, because it had sued hundreds of people in one case, in the wrong jurisdiction and without meeting the constitutional standard for obtaining identifying information.

"Copyright owners have a right to protect their works, but they can't use shoddy and unfair tactics to do so," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "When adult film companies launch these cases, there is the added pressure of embarrassment associated with pornography, which can convince those ensnared in the suits to quickly pay what's demanded of them, whether or not they have legitimate defenses. That's why it's so important to make sure the process is fair."

Mick Haig Productions dropped the case just 48 hours after EFF and PC demanded that it withdraw subpoenas Mick Haig's lawyer apparently issued while the question of whether the court should allow the subpoenas at all was still under consideration by the court.

Read the rest

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