Last month, we first told the story of North Carolina's Brian Hill, a chronically ill, mildly autistic hobby blogger being sued by Righthaven, a Nevada company, for unauthorized publication of a copyrighted Denver Post photo on his website, USWGO.com. Now, attorney David Kerr, acting on Hill's behalf, has filed a slew of court documents, including a motion to dismiss the suit that describes Righthaven as a "copyright troll." Read them below.
The introductory passage of the main motion to dismiss sets the stage:
This Court is presented with a most curious and problematic case. Plaintiff, Righthaven LLC, ("Righthaven") appears to be what is often referred to as a "copyright troll." Righthaven is believed to be acting as a proxy plaintiff for reluctant media corporations. On information and belief, Righthaven might even be in a potentially champertous and barratrous relationship with Media News Group, Inc., the parent corporation of the Denver Post, Corp., to serve as a proxy Plaintiff against Defendant Brian D. Hill, ("Mr. Hill") - as well as hundreds of other similarly situated persons across the country. As the now approximately 40+ identical cases filed in this Court indicate, each sad tale seems to follow the same pattern: First, some unknown "person" or "computer program" scours the internet for "potential infringements" of content created by, and belonging to Media News Group, Inc. In instances where certain content has "gone viral,"1 upon finding such potential infringement (innocent or otherwise), Righthaven, through an as yet unexplained and undisclosed arrangement, allegedly acquires arguable rights in the content, (if any at all) to file suit for such potential acts of copyright infringement. Then without warning, Righthaven files multiple (essentially) identical federal complaints against unsuspecting persons across the country for copyright infringement seeking the maximum statutory damages of $150,000, and a court order mandating non-party domain registrants to seize and transfer Defendant's property to Righthaven. Such lawsuits are primarily directed to small personal blogs, or other non-profit sites, where flummoxed and overwhelmed Defendants, are presented with a simple devils bargain -- settle with Righthaven for several thousand dollars, defend yourself pro se, or hire an attorney and spend exponentially more attempting to defend against such allegations.
The motion calls the present case "even more problematic" due to the subject of the suit, described as "a 20-year-old mentally and physically disabled young man" suffering from brittle diabetes, which requires his mother, Roberta, to monitor his blood sugar around the clock.
Neither can work because of his condition. They subsist on a modest Social Security disability disbursement, the motion continues, adding, "As a result of the stress of the current pending lawsuit, Mr. Hill's health has steadily declined, placing him at risk of a serious, perhaps life-threatening medical event."
Because of such factors, Hill has won the support of Reporters Without Borders. The organization sent a letter to Denver Post publisher and MediaNews Group chair Dean Singleton, declaring, "We were surprised to witness such behavior here, in the United States, while this is generally a phenomenon Reporters Without Borders witnesses in authoritarian regimes to silence netizens and intimidate journalists, bloggers and others."
Page down to read the motion to dismiss brief, the motion itself, and declarations from both Brian and Roberta Hill.
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More from our Media archive: "Brian Hill: Chronically ill, autistic blogger's lawyer blasts Denver Post for Righthaven suit."