Righthaven, LLC is having a bad week. You’ll remember from our previous advisory that Righthaven is a copyright holding company that, until recently, has filed hundreds of copyright infringement lawsuits. The lawsuits generally allege copyright infringement against websites that have posted all or portions of newspaper articles and photographs Righthaven claimed it owned through assignments from copyright owners. Well, it turns out that certain assignments purporting to grant ownership to Righthaven were not valid. Several district courts in both Nevada and Colorado have dismissed Righthaven’s complaints on the basis that it lacked “standing” (or the legal right) to sue since it did not, in fact, own the copyrights it claimed it did.
Last Wednesday, in Nevada, where Righthaven has filed over 200 lawsuits in the past 14 months, Las Vegas District Court Judge Roger I. Hunt dealt Righthaven its biggest financial blow to date. Not only did the court determine that Righthaven lacked standing to sue, it awarded Righthaven defendant Thomas DiBiase nearly $120,000 in legal fees as a result of the expenses Mr. DiBiase incurred defending himself against Righthaven’s claims. A copy of Judge Hunt’s award for Mr. DiBiase can be found here. This is the third such award for a Righthaven defendant and the largest award to date. Previously, another Las Vegas judge awarded another successful defendant approximately $34,000in legal fees after that defendant successfully moved to dismiss Righthaven’s claims for lack of standing.
As discussed in our post regarding the award of attorney’s fees to a “prevailing party” under 17 U.S.C. § 505, in granting legal fees to a successful defendant, a court can consider factors such as whether the plaintiff’s claims are frivolous, objectively unreasonable, or if there is a need to advance considerations of compensation to the successful party and deter certain behavior. Here, Judge Hunt found that these factors, among others, “weigh[ed] strongly toward imposition of attorney’s fees against Righthaven.”
It remains unclear how Righthaven will proceed. Given Righthaven’s alleged difficulty posting a bond for the previous $34,000 award pending appeal, this latest award may stall Righthaven’s litigation streak.