Are the Tables Turning on IP Bullying?
Everyone remembers their parents’ advice about how to deal with bullies: stand up to them. Righthaven LLC, a Las Vegas based corporation, is generally considered a copyright bully. This perception probably comes from Righthaven’s tactics, which involve being assigned the right to sue, filing no-warning lawsuits, and going after “mom and pop” defendants. Since its inception in March 2010, Righthaven has filed 275 no-warning copyright infringement lawsuits against people who had allegedly infringed material from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post. Through these suits, Righthaven has allegedly collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuit settlement revenue.
But, in the past few months, some potential victims have followed age-old wisdom and stood their ground. Now, it appears Righthaven is the one getting bullied. Six different federal judges have dismissed suits brought by Righthaven due to a lack of standing. One judge also ruled the entire re-posting of an article constituted a fair use. Since the copyright laws allow judges to award attorney’s fees and costs to the prevailing party, Righthaven is now on the hook for what may amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Aggressive legal campaigns to protect copyrights are not unheard of, less than ten years ago the RIAA embarked on a similar campaign. However, this campaign was not regarded with the same animosity that Righthaven’s campaign has faced. This may be due to the perception that Righthaven is profiting from enforcement, while the RIAA was perceived as simply trying to protect its copyrights. Another difference is that at least some of Righthaven’s victims did not know the content was copyrighted. The defendants in RIAA lawsuits can make no such claim.
It certainly seems like the tables have been turned on this alleged bully. But, is Righthaven actually a bully? It sure is perceived as such. But even if Righthaven’s campaign is really over, it shouldn’t be too long before another campaign of IP enforcement begins. Maybe the next enforcers can learn from Righthaven’s mistakes.
For more stories of hostile IP bullies and the fine line between fair and effective enforcement of intellectual property rights, join us THIS FRIDAY, November 11th, for the IPLJ Symposium entitled “IP Bullying or Proactive Enforcement?” Our esteemed panelists will discuss the significance of IP bullying (or lack thereof), the effect of the evolution of the IP litigation model on competition, and how rights holders can walk that fine line between effective policing and bullying. The event will be held at Fordham University School of Law’s McNally Amphitheater. The event is free and open to the public.