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.
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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.

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EFF wants Righthaven to pay for its own ass-kicking

When the odious copyright trolls at Righthaven (a company that buys the right to demand legal settlement money from bloggers who quote newspapers from the papers themselves) sued Democratic Underground, the Electronic Frontier Foundation came to the rescue. They kicked Righthaven's ass. Now EFF is asking a judge to award them legal costs in Democratic Underground's defense.

If the judge finds in their favor, it could put Righthaven out of business: after all, the copyright troll business-model is to skimp on legal analysis, threaten to sue people, and offer "settlements" that are cheaper than paying for a legal defense. But if the judge in the Democratic Underground case finds for EFF, then defending oneself against copyright trolls will come for free: contingency lawyers will spring up all over the country, knowing that they can beat back the groundless Righthaven claims and pocket hefty fees for their trouble. The more threatening letters Righthaven sends out, the more it will cost them -- that is, unless Righthaven restricts itself to bringing claims that have merit, but this is more restraint than any copyright troll to date has managed to show.

The case centers on an EFF client, the political community site Democratic Underground. Righthaven sued the site months ago after a user posted four paragraphs from a 34-paragraph Las Vegas Review-Journal story in May on Sharron Angle, the unsuccessful Republican Nevada candidate for Senate.

After suffering a defeat in a lawsuit with a similar amount of infringement, Righthaven moved to dismiss the Democratic Underground case last month.

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