Righthaven is attempting to make a business out of suing Internet websites for copyright infringement. It has filed 180 copyright actions so far —without ever first asking that a work be removed from the target website—in each case alleging “willful infringement” and attempting to extract settlements by threats of statutory damages (up to $150,000), attorneys’ fees and seizure of the domain name.
Democratic Underground -- represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Fenwick & West LLP, and attorney Chad Bowers -- was sued by Righthaven on August 10 for a five-sentence excerpt of a Las Vegas Review-Journal news story that a user posted on the forum, with a link back to the Review-Journal website.
Democratic Underground, a political message forum, refused to be intimidated by Righthaven’s action. They retained counsel and responded with a counterclaim that joined Righthaven’ affiliate and funder, Stephens Media, LLC (publisher of the Review-Journal), and laid bare the numerous defects not only in Righthaven’s claims, but in its business model itself. Not surprisingly, Righthaven now wants out—so badly, in fact, that it has moved to voluntarily dismiss its claim with prejudice in order to avoid a decision on the merits. However, Righthaven pleads to be let off the hook for Democratic Underground's fees and costs defending the lawsuit.
Democratic Underground responded to Righthaven's motion yesterday. DU agrees that this case should be over—indeed, it should never have started. But it should not end until Righthaven is called to account for the cost of the defense it provoked. To allow Righthaven to avoid compensating innocent defendants who refused to be coerced would be unjust and unsupportable. Accordingly, Democratic Underground asked the Court to deny the conditions Righthaven wrongfully proposed for the motion for voluntary dismissal and instead grant summary judgment in its favor.
In addition, Stephens Media has filed a motion to be let out of the case, piously claiming that it is just an innocent bystander, having done nothing but assign a copyright to Righthaven. To the contrary, Stephens Media has publicly admitted that it “grubstaked and contracted with a company called Righthaven," and made numerous public statements discussing Stephens Media’s ownership interest in Righthaven, its control over who Righthaven sues, and Righthaven’s business practices that are based on agreements with Stephens Media: with its general counsel representing, for instance, that “I can tell Righthaven not to sue somebody.” Democratic Underground responded to that motion as well, asking the court to reject Stephens Media's attempt to walk away from the copyright troll it created, and allow the counter-claim so that the online forum can receive full justice.