San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed two briefs in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today in its ongoing battle to end copyright troll Righthaven LLC's litigation campaign.
Since its founding in January 2010, Righthaven has brought hundreds of copyright infringement lawsuits, even though it does not create, produce or distribute any content. Instead, Righthaven claimed it was assigned the copyrights from Stephens Media, publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and other newspapers. In the course of its work fighting the Righthaven cases, EFF unearthed a document showing the copyright assignment was a sham, and that Righthaven never owned the copyrights it sued over. As a result, many of Righthaven's bogus cases have been dismissed in district court.
While many defendants paid settlements, Righthaven has never won a single case on the merits and has been ordered to pay over $200,000 for defendants' attorneys fees and $5,000 in sanctions. Righthaven's domain name, righthaven.com, was auctioned to help pay these judgments, and founder and CEO, Las Vegas attorney Steven A. Gibson, is currently being investigated by the Nevada State Bar. However, Righthaven is now looking to the Ninth Circuit to salvage its dangerous business model.
"These cases should never have been filed in the first place. They are based on a sham copyright assignment, run roughshod over fair use, and have abused the legal system by forcing bloggers and web sites to pay cost of defense settlements," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "It's obvious Righthaven's litigation scheme has failed, and we urge the appeals court to deny Righthaven's last ditch effort to resuscitate its business model."
The first brief filed today is in Righthaven v. DiBiase. EFF, along with the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and attorney Chad Bowers, represent Thomas DiBiase, a former prosecutor who was sued for a post on his blog that provides resources for homicide prosecutors in difficult-to-solve murder cases. The case was dismissed in June, and in its motion filed today, EFF urges the court to uphold that dismissal.
Also today EFF filed an amicus brief in Righthaven v. Center for Intercultural Organizing. This case was dismissed in April, with the judge ruling that the non-profit organization's use of the news article was a non-infringing fair use. Righthaven appealed, seeking to rewrite fair use law to vastly expand the scope of infringement. In today's brief, EFF is joined by the Digital Media Law Project of Harvard University, Public Knowledge, and 11 professors in urging the appeals court to reject Righthaven's erroneous view of the law.
"When a small non-profit in Oregon posted a short, factual news article on its blog, it caused no harm to Righthaven or the to Las Vegas Review-Journal," said Opsahl. "It was a classic fair use, not a cause for a federal lawsuit."
The professors who joined the brief are: Patricia Aufderheide of the American University School of Communication; Annemarie Bridy of the University of Idaho College of Law; Thomas G. Field, Jr., of the University of New Hampshire School of Law; Eric Goldman of the Santa Clara University School of Law; William T. Gallagher of Golden Gate University School of Law; Greg Lastowka of Rutgers School of Law-Camden; Michael L. Rustad of Suffolk University Law School; Matthew Sag of Loyola University of Chicago School of Law; Jason Schultz of the University of California's Boalt Hall School of Law; Rebecca Tushnet of Georgetown University Law Center; and Jane K. Winn of the University of Washington School of Law.
Google also filed an amicus brief opposing Righthaven's fair use analysis in the CIO Case and urged the Ninth Circuit to affirm the District Court.
For the full brief in Righthaven v. DiBiase:
For the full brief in Righthaven v. CIO:
For Google's amicus brief:
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation