by Kate Knable
Posted 1/16/2012 12:00 am
Updated 2 years ago
The correct word for what’s happening to Righthaven LLC of Las Vegas appears to be “imploding.”
In less than two years, Righthaven switched from being an aggressive enforcer of copyrights for Arkansas-owned Stephens Media and MediaNews Group of Denver to a backpedaling dodger of court orders and asset receivers. Neither media company associates itself with Righthaven any longer.
In a breathtaking display of poetic irony, Righthaven, which filed scores of copyright infringement suits demanding money from such supposed business threats as a blog for cat fanciers, has complained about the “scorched Earth judgment enforcement efforts” of one of its targets.
Judges in both Colorado and Nevada have ruled against Righthaven, arguing that the copyright enforcer did not own the media companies’ copyrighted articles and did not have the right to sue.
After Righthaven lost a suit against Kentuckian Wayne Hoehn in June, U.S. District Judge Philip Pro of Nevada ordered the company to pay Hoehn’s $34,000 in attorneys’ fees, plus interest. Pro concluded that Hoehn legally posted a copyrighted article on an online forum.
Righthaven said liquidating its assets to pay Hoehn would force the company into bankruptcy. It subsequently missed every court-set payment deadline.
Judge Pro gave Hoehn permission Nov. 1 to seize Righthaven’s assets to satisfy the judgment.
As part of liquidating Righthaven’s property, a receiver took over the company’s website domain, Righthaven.com, and sold it Jan. 5 in an online auction for $3,300. U.S. Marshals emptied a Righthaven bank account, turning up less than $1,000. The receiver, Nevada attorney Lara Pearson, also attempted to transfer other Righthaven assets to sell.
The court order “mandates that you must transfer whatever rights Righthaven has in the copyrighted works and allow the market to determine the value therein,” Pearson wrote in an email to Righthaven’s attorney, Shawn Mangano of Las Vegas. Mangano could not be reached for comment.
The asset-seizing endeavors have proven increasingly problematic, particularly since Righthaven’s founder, Steve Gibson, did not appear for a debtor examination Jan. 5.
To counter Righthaven’s evasiveness, Hoehn asked the judge to issue arrest warrants so Gibson and his wife would be forced to appear in court. The Gibsons finally appeared for a debtor examination last week.
Righthaven’s latest defense tactic was to reverse its position on the copyrights it claimed to own and — in more than 200 civil cases in Colorado, Nevada and South Carolina — sued to protect from use by bloggers and website owners.
“Defendant’s Motion is nothing more than a blatant attempt to garner media attention and notoriety by requesting an order that authorizes the U.S. Marshall [sic] to take Righthaven’s officers into custody and force the assignment of copyrights, which this Court has already determined the company does not own,” Mangano wrote in response Jan. 9. “Whether or not an ineffectual bare right to sue, which is what the Court has determined the assigned copyrights to be, has any value in the marketplace is yet another question that further calls the viability of the Defendant’s scorched Earth judgment enforcement efforts into question.”