We've been keeping you abreast of developments in the copyright-infringement lawsuit filed against mildly autistic, chronically ill hobby blogger Brian Hill by Nevada's Righthaven LLC for unauthorized use of a single Denver Post photo. The latest? A judge has ruled against Righthaven's request for an extension in an order that takes a shot at the company's business plan and, by association, the Post's affiliation with such an outfit.
Righthaven's approach? The company obtains the copyrights for items from papers like the Post that have been republished without prior consent, then files suit against the individuals involved. Typically, the firm pledges to drop the matter for a cash payment -- approximately $6,000 in the case of Hill.
Problem is, Hill, who lives in North Carolina, is mildly autistic and has a form of diabetes so life threatening that he can't work, and neither can his mother, who must monitor him in his sleep to make sure he doesn't drift into a coma. The two of them live on disability payments that a Righthaven attorney allegedly implied could be attached to a settlement.
In a letter about the Hill matter, Reporters Without Borders blasted Dean Singleton, the Post's publisher and head of its parent company, MediaNews Group, for associating with Righthaven. Nonetheless, the suit hasn't been dropped, and Righthaven took the unusual step of asking for a filing extension, reportedly in an effort to reach a settlement. However, U.S. District Judge John Kane rebuffed that request, and in his order, he didn't exactly praise Righthaven.
According to Kane, "the Plaintiff's business model relies in large part upon reaching settlement agreements with a minimal investment of time and effort." However, he added, "Plaintiff's wishes to the contrary, the courts are not merely tools for encouraging and exacting settlements from Defendants cowed by the potential costs of litigation and liability."
David S. Kerr, an attorney representing Hill on a pro bono basis, offers his take on the order.
"We are pleased with Judge Kane's decision," he writes via e-mail, "and look forward to demonstrating to the Court why the case against Brian should never have been brought in Colorado, if at all."
He adds, "We look forward to Righthaven's response. However, we feel that ultimately we will prevail based on the facts and the law."
Kerr is "especially excited for Brian. This case has been a devastating experience for him personally and his entire family. His health has suffered quite a bit as a result of this entire ordeal. He was so thrilled to read that a federal judge will allow him to tell his story and rule on his motion to dismiss.
"I certainly think this order from Judge Kane may have far-reaching implications for other Righthaven suits in Colorado. However, we will reserve further comment and see how the cases develop going forward."
Righthaven has until Monday, April 11, to respond to Hill's motion to dismiss the case -- and while Kane doesn't tip his hand about his ultimate decision, his tone can't be considered a positive sign for the anti-Hill forces.
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More from our Media archive: "Denver Post parent MediaNews Group puts Mike Rosen column at center of copyright suit."