Judge Clifton of the Ninth Circuit (via ArsTechnica):
Abraham Lincoln told a story about a lawyer who tried to establish that a calf had five legs by calling its tail a leg. But the calf had only four legs, Lincoln observed, because calling a tail a leg does not make it so,” the opinion begins.
Before us is a case about a lawyer who tried to establish that a company owned a copyright by drafting a contract calling the company the copyright owner, even though the company lacked the rights associated with copyright ownership. Heeding Lincoln’s wisdom, and the requirements of the Copyright Act, we conclude that merely calling someone a copyright owner does not make it so.
“US Marshals turned loose to collect $63,720.80 from Righthaven” [Nate Anderson, ArsTechnica]
Copyright troll tripped up:
A federal judge in Las Vegas today issued a potentially devastating ruling against copyright enforcer Righthaven LLC, finding it doesn’t have standing to sue over Las Vegas Review-Journal stories, that it has misled the court and threatening to impose sanctions against Righthaven. … [U.S. District Court Judge Roger] Hunt’s ruling today came in a 2010 Righthaven lawsuit against the Democratic Underground, operator of a big political website.
One of DU’s message board posters had reprinted without permission, but with link and credit, four paragraphs’ worth of an article under copyright to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is one of a number of newspapers with working agreements with RightHaven. And this part’s interesting:
In their counterclaim [which Judge Hunt allowed to proceed], attorneys for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital free speech group based in San Francisco, hit Righthaven and Stephens Media with allegations of barratry (the alleged improper incitement of litigation); and champerty (an allegedly improper relationship between one funding and one pursuing a lawsuit)….
Some fans of entrepreneurial lawyering in the academy and elsewhere have sought to portray rules against barratry and champerty as wrongheaded survivals of a much older approach to the role of the legal profession. But it looks as if EFF — no one’s idea of a Blackstone-reading antiquarian club — just put those rules to powerful use. [Las Vegas Sun]
P.S. Bloggers who settled wonder: can we get our money back?
It has to do with RightHaven: “Why We Won’t Link To Denver Post, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Salt Lake Tribune, and Several Others” [Box Turtle Bulletin]
The copyright mill’s much-criticized lawsuits have been generating adverse judicial precedent that may actually leave providers more vulnerable to content-swiping than before [Las Vegas Sun, Instapundit] More: Citizen Media Law.
The guy had reposted a photo belonging to the Denver Post, a newspaper that’s among the clients of the copyright-enforcement mill [Westword via Romenesko, USWGO]
Having defeated a Righthaven suit filed against the political site Democratic Underground, lawyers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation now would like the court to award attorneys’ fees. [Kravets, Wired "Threat Level"] Among the claims advanced by EFF in that case were that Righthaven had engaged in barratry and champerty, concepts familiar to many Overlawyered readers if in desuetude in some sectors of the legal world these days. It had also pointed out that some of the newspapers facilitating the suits themselves, or websites they operate, appear to engage in or encourage practices that might be considered wrongful under Righthaven’s theories, such as “cutting and pasting” potentially copyrighted text.
Separately, Groklaw has analyzed what happened in one sample case. Of the furor aroused by the lawsuits, “I think the benefits are worth the negative publicity,” said one executive with the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s owner at a September panel.
The entrepreneurial copyright litigation firm has also now signed up the Denver Post as a new affiliate, and has made a splash by suing the owner of the Drudge Report over its use of a photo allegedly swiped from the Colorado newspaper, an offense (if proven) presumably not as readily defended under “fair use” doctrine as some others over which it has sued.
The company says it will narrow its filing of infringement suits following a Nevada judge’s ruling that a real estate firm was within acceptable “fair use” limits in handling a copyrighted newspaper story of which it had reprinted the first eight sentences. “Righthaven does not anticipate filing any future lawsuits founded upon infringements of less than 75% of a copyrighted work, regardless of the outcome of the instant litigation,” it said in a court filing. [David Kravets/Wired "Threat Level", Las Vegas Sun]
The Las Vegas Sun has details. Meanwhile, the copyright troll has sued six more website operators.