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Stephens Media’s Righthaven Ruled Wrong in U.S. Circuit Court

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Righthaven LLC of Las Vegas, which once was a pit bull for enforcing copyrights for Stephens Media LLC of Las Vegas, recently lost an appeal at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Here’s how Condé Nast technology website Ars Technica headlined the news: “Copyright troll Righthaven finally, completely dead.”

Righthaven survived on a steady diet of settlements from copyright infringement lawsuits against bloggers and others who posted stories from Stephens Media’s newspapers and the MediaNews Group of Denver.

But if the bloggers stood up to Righthaven, the lawsuits didn’t get very far. U.S. District Court judges in Colorado and Nevada ruled that Righthaven didn’t own the media company’s copyrighted material and didn’t have the right to file the lawsuits.

Righthaven appealed those rulings to the 9th Circuit, which was similarly unimpressed.

“Before us is a case about a lawyer who tried to establish that a company owned a copyright by drafting a contract calling the company the copyright owner, even though the company lacked the rights associated with copyright ownership,” 9th Circuit Judge Richard Clifton wrote in his ruling. “We conclude that merely calling someone a copyright owner does not make it so.”

An attorney for Righthaven, Shawn Mangano of Las Vegas, didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

“It pretty much is the end of the road for this business model,” Kurt Opsahl, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, told Arkansas Business last week. He argued the case for Righthaven’s targets at the 9th Circuit.

He said that as of last week Righthaven hasn’t filed for bankruptcy protection, but a receiver has been appointed.

He said Electronic Frontier Foundation has a $250,000 judgment against Righthaven that hasn’t been paid.

Stephens Media — which is owned by Little Rock financier Warren Stephens and his cousins Witt Stephens Jr. and Elizabeth Stephens Campbell — severed ties with Righthaven in 2011.

An attorney for Stephens Media, Mark A. Hinueber of Las Vegas, declined to comment on the ruling or Righthaven

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