The court system is sick and tired of organizations building businesses around petty copyright infringement cases. Righthaven is an LLC that has formed just for that reason. Essentially, once a copyright has been infringed upon, online newspapers sell the rights of the articles to Righthaven so that they may pursue the matter in court without involving the original publisher. Under this system, both parties stand to gain something.
Just before the weekend a Nevada federal district court decided they have had enough of these type of nuisance lawsuits and decided to make it harder for trolls like Righthaven to profit off of them. Judge Roger Hunt, who presided over the latest Righthaven case ruled that the material in question is now considered “fair use” and therefor not infringement.
Here’s a definition for “fair use” according to the Internet Law Treatise:
“The fair use doctrine “creates a limited privilege in those other than the owner of a copyright to use the copyrighted material in a reasonable manner without the owner’s consent,” Fisher v. Dees, 794 F.2d 432, 435 (9th Cir. 1986), and “permits and requires courts to avoid rigid application of the copyright statute when, on occasion, it would stifle the very creativity which that law is designed to foster.” Campbell, 510 U.S. at 577 (internal quotation marks omitted).”
Righthaven CEO Steven A. Gibson has been losing cases left and right regarding simple infringement instances. The latest case involved an online publication called ‘Democratic Underground‘ who posted a paragraph from an online newspaper in reference to their own story and linked back to the newspaper. Righthaven claimed they owned the rights to the newspaper article and sued the publisher of the Democratic Underground.
Judge Hunt commented in his statement regarding the case:
“That the act of posting this five-sentence excerpt of a fifty sentence news article on
a political discussion forum is a fair use pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 107, and that the fair use doctrine provides a complete defense to the claim of copyright infringement from which this suit arose. Judgment on the Counterclaim is accordingly entered in favor of Democratic Underground and against Counter Defendant Stephens Media, LLC.”
This case should set a precedent for others who seek to profit off petty infringements and discourage future lawsuits which tend to tie up court systems and punish those who have no intent on stealing other people’s intellectual property.
Meanwhile, Righthaven has had the tables turned on them and various courts are seeking reparations for clients who have had to payout huge sums to defend against legal advances from the copyright troll LLC. Recently the CEO of Righthaven has had his bank accounts seized by the government and his assets auctioned off. Perhaps we have seen the end of petty infringement cases like these.