Righthaven comes up a lot here at Legally Sociable, and I’ve mentioned their suit against Brian Hill, a 20-year-old blogger with autism and severe diabetes, before. In another victory for defendants in Righthaven lawsuits, Ars Technica reports that Righthaven is dropping its suit against Brian, after the judge noted that enabling a cheap, easy settlement “is not my primary concern”:
Though the case was moving forward, Righthaven made clear it wasn’t actually interested in litigating the suit; it wanted to settle. “Righthaven is no longer willing to engage in settlement discussions over trivial issues while the Defendant and his counsel seek to extend this action for publicity purposes,” said the company. With settlement not a possibility, the company now just wants the suit to go away. [emphasis added]
Indeed, Righthaven’s lawsuits are starting to drop like flies. It was just two weeks ago that Righthaven dismissed a suit against the freelance author of another Ars Technica article that covered Righthaven’s litigation antics. In dropping the suit against Ars’ reporter, Righthaven claimed it was all just a mistake:
“We took immediate corrective action” after learning that Righthaven had just sued a reporter, said [Righthaven lawyer Shawn] Mangano. He added that, since reporters make use of copyright and tend to know a good deal about fair use, “It’s somewhat counterintuitive to sue a reporter for copyright infringement!”
While I certainly applaud Righthaven’s decision to drop these two particularly suits, I have to wonder about the outcomes in the other 260+ lawsuits they have filed over the past year.
Dictionary.com defines “bully” as “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.” This definition appears to describe Righthaven perfectly; indeed, it is only when a defendant proves not to be “smaller or weaker” that they tuck tail and run. Clearly, Righthaven didn’t think it was worth fighting a reporter backed by one of the largest magazine publishers in the U.S. or a highly sympathetic blogger with a clearly competent lawyer (PDF). However laudatory in result, its dismissals in these cases seem to confirm that Righthaven is not truly defending a principled (if overzealous) view of copyright law. Instead, Righthaven appears to be a garden-variety bully out to shake down the small and weak for four-digit settlements.
Copyright reform, anyone?
Update 4/12/2011: Joe Mullin at paidContent has additional information about the Hill dismissal:
In a 3-page motion, Righthaven tries to let Hill off the hook but maintains a complainy sort of tone….Judge Kane responded to that by taking another extraordinary action—he actually ordered Righthaven’s “warning” to be stricken from the record entirely, along with all the company’s complaints about Hill’s bad behavior. That part of the filing was “immaterial and impertinent,” Kane wrote. That’s a strong suggestion that Kane has become quite annoyed by Righthaven’s tone and actions in this case.
Wow. I think I’d be quite worried about sanctions if I were representing Righthaven in this case.
Further reading (hat tip to paidContent):