For those of you following on twitter and on a few old Podcasts, I like to post updates about the RJ/Righthaven lawsuits. It’s been a wild ride to watch a media giant throw their weight around, only to get their butts handed to them on a silver plate after chewing up innocent (?) people and ruining lives. From the emails, I am guessing some of you have no idea what I am talking about.
So Here’s the Skinny on the RJ B*tch Slapping Trials
Just for the record, this series of lawsuits and the case against them impacts the future of Internet and Internet publications (like The Vegas Tourist). So it is kind of important to know.
The Las Vegas Review Journal is the main paper of Las Vegas. It is owned by Stephens Media. A family owned media empire that runs a variety of media outlets around the country. Here in Las Vegas, its the Review Journal, or to the locals “The RJ”
Last year they wanted to try an experiment and chose Las Vegasas its proving ground. Their theory was that they were going to change the way media companies look at the Internet. To change a long slide in circulation due to copyright thieves. They envisioned that in the end, Stephens Media would be looked at as a God amongst the media elite. The savior of the print publication world.
So they found an ambulance chasing attorney that wanted his 15 minutes of fame, and together they created a ” copyright protection” law firm called Righthaven.
Their scam was simple. Righthaven would scour the Internet, looking for small mom and pop and disabled peoples websites that had links to RJ articles. Than the RJ would assign the copyrights to Righthaven. Righthaven would then launch an all out war on the website owner. Without warning (Unless the media called for comment) The website owner would be handed legal documents ordering them to pay $150,000 and to fork over the domain name to Righthaven.
Since these were mom and pop and disabled peoples websites, the owners did not have the balls nor the money to fight a lawsuit. So some rolled over. Some negotiated and other went public.
Righthaven even sued the people who’s interviews made up the bulk of an article!! But they stayed clear of the big boys like Google or other scraper sites. Just focused on the defenseless people. On occasion they screwed up and hit people like Matt Drudge who settled in private.
In one instance that sparked the latest battle, Righthaven went after a disabled persons website and threatened to garnish his social security benefits if he didn’t settle. Once that hit the news, they backed off but wanted the website owner to sign a statement saying that Righthaven acted professional and proper in initiating the lawsuit and that he was the guilty party. That also hit the International news. Karma bites sometimes.
In all, over 250 lawsuits were filed. No notice. No “please take down the offending content.” Just “shut up, pay up and give us the domain name or show up in court.”
That was until attorneys from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others stepped up to help fight the battle. It helped that many of the suits fell into Chief U.S. District Judge for Nevada Roger Hunt’s courtroom. It didn’t help matters when Righthaven tried to explain a couple of times to the judge where he was wrong in reading the laws and the verdicts!! Yea, judges hate when you tell them they screwed up and that your lawyers really know it better…
So the judge ruled on a motion that unsealed the secret contract between Righthaven and Stephens Media. Seems the RJ never really transferred the copyrights over and that Stephens Media (the RJ) would split any monies made from the lawsuits 50/50.
It seems that Righthaven forgot to mention in the lawsuits or to the judge that the RJ had a vested interest in the lawsuits. That they should have been part of the courtroom drama and that the money to pay for the lawsuits may have initially came from Stephens Media and that the RJ still had copyright control. Opps!! The contract has since been amended as well as any remaining and future lawsuits have been amended as well.
So everything changed today, when the judge ruled that copyright enforcer Righthaven LLC, DOES NOT have standing to sue over Las Vegas Review-Journal stories. In addition, that Righthaven has misled the court. The Judge could now impose sanctions against Righthaven.
The Review Journal and Righthaven have now been officially Bitch Slapped by the Judge!!
The Show is Not Over Folks
Attorneys from the Electronic Frontier Foundation are asking to be awarded attorney’s fees. The line is now forming behind the EFF from prior lawsuits and others as well.
Righthaven now “respects the judges decision”, but wants to look over its options and proceed… yea, you boys do that. I’m going to pop up some more popcorn while the intermission takes place….
Host of The Vegas tourist Podcast
FYI: If any Righthaven lawyers are reading this: Consider this an Opinion piece mixed with some history, some news and a big helping of sarcasm!