Copyright Company Righthaven Fined $5000 for Misleading US Federal Court

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Righthaven was fined $5,000 in July. (Credit: Righthaven, screenshot)

Since March 2010, Righthaven has filed lawsuits alleging copyright infringement against bloggers and websites operators.  The suits have been filed on behalf of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and, since November 2010, the Denver Post.

But, the lawsuits have seen much pushback.  Some defendants in Righthaven lawsuits have counter-sued, some have settled with Righthaven, and others have gained the support of organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

But, according to TechDirt, Righthaven has been accused of being a “front for a legal campaign by Stephens Media and its key publication, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.”  Essentially, Righthaven is being accused of being a dummy organization — separate from the Review-Journal, but used to sue on behalf of the Review-Journal — that would “try to isolate Stephens Media from potential liability.”

$5K Fine

Righthaven has been fined $5,000 “for misleading a federal court about its lawsuits,” Vegas Inc. reported in mid-July.  U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt added that Righthaven “has been acting like a law firm,” which it is not.

And, also with that $5,000 fine, Righthaven has been ordered to give copies of the court transcript to “everyone else that Righthaven is currently suing,” TechDirt reported.

While Righthaven “may appeal the sanction,” the judge ruled that “Righthaven deliberately failed to disclose” the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s ownership of Righthaven shares.

Hunt claimed that Righthaven’s contact with Stephens Media didn’t “disclose the interest of Stephens Media LLC in Righthaven’s lawsuits over R-J material.”   In a separate article, Vegas Inc. explained that the contract grants Stephens Media the copyrights but Righthaven “the right to sue.”

As evidence, TechDirt noted that Sherman Frederick, the former publisher of and currently columnist for the Review-Journal and former CEO for Review-Journal parent company Stephens Media, has “a habit of occasionally talking about Righthaven as if he controls it.”

For example, in a July 14 blogpost about Sharron Angle, Frederick reportedly wrote in the comments section “I even sued her for lifting our material,” even though Righthaven is behind the lawsuit.

TechDirt noted that in one example, the Democratic Underground lawsuit, Righthaven has been “dismissed…from the case,” even though the Democratic Underground’s suit against Stephens Media will continue. As StinkyJournalism previously wrote, Democratic Underground was sued for re-posting five sentences from a Review-Journal article, which Democratic Underground states is acceptable under fair use policies.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation is helping Democratic Underground as it defends itself against Righthaven and counter-sues.

However, despite the $5,000 fine ordered by the court, TechDirt reported yesterday that Righthaven didn’t pay fine, and instead “filed an extension for paying” the fine “a day after the deadline to pay up.”

TechDirt called Righthaven’s actions “cavalier,” and noted that the judge did give Righthaven “a ten day extension, saying that Righthaven has to pay up by August 8th.”

See all of iMediaEthics’ stories on Righthaven here.

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Copyright Company Righthaven Fined $5000 for Misleading US Federal Court

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