Not only has Righthaven not won any significant battle in court, it’s now been ordered to pay up itself three different times. Yesterday, the judge who threw out the copyright-enforcement company’s lawsuit against online commenter Wayne Hoehn found the case egregious enough that he ordered Righthaven to pay more than $34,000 to Hoehn’s lawyers. Update: Read today’s interview with Righthaven CEO Steve Gibson.
Hoehn had copied an editorial column from the Las Vegas Review-Journal to a discussion forum on a sports site called madjacksports.com. Righthaven sued, but Hoehn fought back, arguing that his re-posting was fair use. In June, U.S. District Judge Philip Pro ruled that Hoehn’s use of the article was actually fair use, because Hoehn’s use didn’t hurt the actual market for the article at all.
Righthaven actually lost the case on two grounds, because Pro also ruled that the company didn’t have standing to sue. Pro wasn’t the first judge to determine that Righthaven had no standing to sue, because its copyright contract with newspaper company Stephens Media was flawed. Righthaven is appealing the loss. Steve Gibson, Righthaven’s CEO, said that the Hoehn case wasn’t actually lost on fair use grounds, because once Pro ruled that Righthaven didn’t have standing, any discussion of fair use was “academic.”
After they won the case, Hoehn’s attorneys, from Randazza Legal Group, argued [PDF] that unless Hoehn could recoup his legal fees, “a terrible injustice will be done, and the moral of Mr. Hoehn’s story will be that standing up for what is right will bankrupt you – so better to give your money to any bully with a summons in hand.” They continued: “[W]hen Mr. Hoehn stood up for fair use, he stood up for all of us. His contribution to the public good should not be met with indifference.”
In yesterday’s order, Pro stated that the $34,045 that Hoehn’s lawyers sought was “reasonable,” and ordered Righthaven to pay up within a month.
This is the second time that Righthaven has been ordered to pay attorneys’ fees; in the first case, they were ordered to pay $3,815 (also to Randazza Legal Group.) In addition, the company was fined $5,000 for not properly disclosing its financial ties with Stephens Media, the newspaper company that owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal and has partnered with Righthaven.
The order to pay Hoehn’s fees is Righthaven’s biggest financial setback yet, but more demands for fees are on the way. Another defendant that defeated Righthaven, former prosecutor Thomas DiBiase, is asking for nearly $200,000 in attorneys’ fees, reports the Las Vegas Sun. And there’s no doubt that when the time comes, lawyers fighting Righthaven in the most consequential case-the Democratic Underground case-will ask for substantially more than that.