Righthaven v. Wolf

Righthaven v. Wolf is the lead case of over fifty lawsuits filed by Righthaven LLC in the District of Colorado. On March 31, 2011 Righthaven sued Leland Wolf for alleging infringing a Denver Post photograph titled “TSA Agent performs enhanced pat-downs," by virtue of a parody of the photo posted on his It Makes Sense blog.

On May 17, 2011, Mr. Wolf moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. While deciding this motion, the Court stayed all the other Colorado cases. The parties stipulated to jurisdictional discovery on June 3. On July 8, 2011, after obtaining the the Copyright Alliance Agreement ("CAA") between Righthaven and the Denver Post's publisher via this expedited discovery, Mr. Wolf filed a brief supporting its Motion to Dismiss.

EFF filed an amicus brief supporting Mr. Wolf, explaining that Righthaven does not have the right to sue because Righthaven lacks ownership of any exclusive right granted under Section 106 of the Copyright Act. Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse also filed an amicus brief.

The case docket is available on RECAP.

Background on Righthaven's Colorado Litigation Campaign

Righthaven v. Wolf is part of a larger litigation campaign in Colorado involving Denver Post copyrights. On September 22, 2010, Righthaven and MediaNews Group (“MNG”) signed the CAA. Months later, on December 1, 2010, MNG executed a purported “Copyright Assignment” for the TSA photo, which purported to assign “all copyrights requisite . . . for purposes of Righthaven being able to claim ownership as well as the right to seek redress for past, present, and future infringements . . . .” However, the use of the vague term “requisite” disguises the truth: as discussed below, the CAA explains what happened “[d]espite any Copyright Assignment.” Together, these contracts transfer nothing more than the naked right to sue, which is insufficient to support a claim for copyright infringement.

On January 20, 2011, Righthaven launched its Colorado litigation campaign. Righthaven filed 57 lawsuits in this District based on its sham assignment of the TSA photo, 34 of which remain open. Most of the closed cases were settled, extracting revenue for Righthaven’s bottom line based upon a copyright Righthaven did not own.

MediaNews Group decided not to renew its contract with Righthaven, which will expire on September 22, 2011. John Paton, the new CEO of the news conglomerate MediaNews Group, called the decision to engage Righthaven for copyright enforcement "a dumb idea from the start."

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