‘Copyright troll’ Righthaven loses key client as lawsuits taper off

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, September 8, 2011 16:14 EDT
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The company Righthaven, LLC., known to its critics as a “copyright troll” that earns its money by suing media organizations over copyright claims, has been struggling lately thanks to a string of court losses — but on Thursday the company may have sustained a fatal blow.

With over 50 newspapers, including The Denver Post, MediaNews Group is one of Righthaven’s largest clients. The two companies joined forces a year ago, but that contract is soon to expire. In a feature published Thursday by Wired Magazine, MediaNews Group’s new CEO says the deal is through.

“The issues about copyright are real,” CEO John Paton told Wired. “But the idea that you would hire someone on an — essentially — success fee to run around and sue people at will who may or may not have infringed as a way of protecting yourself … does not reflect how news is created and disseminated in the modern world.”

He even called it a “dumb idea from the start.”

Righthaven still has its first client, Stephens Media, which operates over 60 community papers and 11 daily papers in nine states.

Despite the potential for new lawsuits every week, Wired learned that Righthaven has not filed a single suit in over two months. After triggering a series of settlements, Righthaven sued liberal discussion forum Democratic Underground (DU) for appropriating four paragraphs from a Las Vegas Review Journal story.

The lawsuit didn’t go far. U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt wrote that Righthaven “made multiple inaccurate and likely dishonest statements to the court,” then ordered them to explain why they should not be sanctioned for it. Hunt also cautioned that Righthaven may have lied in hundreds of other lawsuits.

He also allowed DU’s counterclaim against Stephens Media, owner of The Las Vegas Review Journal and true holder of the copyright Righthaven claimed ownership of, to move forward in seeking to recover attorney’s fees.

Since that verdict, many of the other cases Righthaven has filed have stalled as judges consider whether the company even has the right to sue on behalf of Stephens Media. Righthaven also filed about three dozen suits on behalf of MediaNews Group, which will presumably fall by the wayside.

[Editor's note: Raw Story was sued earlier this year by Righthaven and an amicable settlement was reached out of court.]

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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