Copyright Law

Copyright Troll Righthaven Loses First Suit; Copying Was Fair Use, Judge Ruled

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Righthaven, a copyright troll that buys the rights to Las Vegas Review-Journal stories and then sues alleged infringers lost its first suit Tuesday when a judge granted a real estate agent’s motion for dismissal.

This was apparently the first time a defendant sued by Righthaven has won a dismissal motion on the merits, the Las Vegas Sun reported. Righthaven has filed more than 150 suits since March, the Sun reports.

In the suit against Realty One Group Inc., Righthaven alleged real estate agent Michael Nelson “copied, on an unauthorized basis, a significant and substantial portion” of Review-Journal story about real estate. The story was 30 sentences long; Nelson reproduced the story’s first eight sentences on his blog, the Sun reported.

In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks said Nelson’s use of the story is not likely to have any effect on the market for the copyrighted news article; plus, Nelson did not reproduce any of the author’s commentary and directed blog readers to the full text of the work.

However, the Sun reports that Nelson and Righthaven actually entered into a confidential settlement after the ruling was filed.

Eric Goldman, an associate professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law and director of its High Tech Law Institute, told the Sun it is unusual to win a fair use defense on a motion to dismiss.

“Procedurally, the court [at this point] must accept all of Righthaven’s factual allegations as true, and the court is not permitted to resolve any factual disputes between the parties. [Absent the settlement] I could see Righthaven protesting that the court made its decision based on disputed facts. … This ruling could be vulnerable on those procedural grounds,” Goldman told the Sun. But “putting aside the procedural issues, the court’s message to Righthaven was clear: The judge cut some procedural corners because Righthaven’s lawsuits—especially this case—are bogus.”

Meanwhile, Righthaven filed six more lawsuits Wednesday, the Sun reported in a later story.

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