This week, Righthaven, a Nevada firm specializing in copyright-infringement litigation, finally acknowledged its relationship with MediaNews Group, owner of the Denver Post, in a filing on view below related to a dropped lawsuit against chronically ill, mildly autistic hobby blogger Brian Hill.
Why? Hill attorney David Kerr thinks recent rulings in Nevada have a lot to do with it.
"This court filing would seem to indicate that the Denver Post and Righthaven entered into an agreement similar to the one that was found to be defective by multiple judges in Nevada," Kerr writes via e-mail.
Righthaven has been working with MediaNews Group and Stephens Media, owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The firms assign Righthaven the copyright to items that have been published by other sites without authorization, as was the case with a Post photo of a TSA agent Hill published on his website, www.uswgo.com. Righthaven then files suit against the site in question, offering to drop litigation in exchange for a hefty cash payment and other concessions. Any money collected is split fifty-fifty between Righthaven and the parent companies of the papers, according to a document made public last month.
As previously noted in an item linked above, this last element jumped out at Nevada-based U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt, who tossed a Righthaven suit against Democratic Underground for unauthorized use of four paragraphs from the Review-Journal under the theory that Righthaven didn't have standing to bring suit in the first place. He wrote that a "copyright owner cannot assign a bare right to sue" -- Righthaven's approach in a nutshell.
Hunt also dinged Righthaven for not disclosing its cash-sharing arrangement with Stephens Media. From his ruling: "Making this failure more egregious, not only did Righthaven fail to identify Stephens Media as an interested party in this suit, the court believes that Righthaven failed to disclose Stephens Media as an interested party in any of its approximately 200 cases filed in this district. Accordingly, the court orders Righthaven to show cause, in writing, no later than two weeks from the date of this order, why it should not be sanctioned for this flagrant misrepresentation to the court."
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Of course, the Righthaven-Stephens Media link has been widely reported by the press, as has the relationship between the company and MediaNews Group, which the Post belatedly acknowledged earlier this month. But this info apparently hasn't been included in the suits. Hence, the Righthaven filing in regard to Hill, who's seeking attorney's fees from the company even though the company withdrew the suit against him following oodles of adverse publicity.
Kerr's take? "We applaud Righthaven for doing the right thing and confirming what Brian has been asserting all along -- namely, that the real parties in interest are the Denver Post and its corporate parent, MediaNews Group, Inc."
In his view, "This document leaves no doubt that the Denver Post was actively profiting from Righthaven's actions."
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Not that Kerr's ready to walk away from the case now that the MediaNews acknowledgment is part of the public record: "Despite Righthaven's newfound candor, Brian is pressing ahead with his request for attorney's fees to which he is legally entitled."
Here's the aforementioned document:
More from our Media archive: "Reporters Without Borders letter faults Denver Post for Righthaven suit against Brian Hill."