In the last year, copyright troll Righthaven has got quite a bit of the publicity they don't want. They have filed lawsuits in three states: Nevada, Colorado, and South Carolina. According to Ars Technica, a Colorado federal judge has issued a new ruling.
Righthaven's model relies on suing bloggers and forum posters who have copied articles or photos from the Las Vegas Review-Journal or the Denver Post. Many of these users decided to settle with Righthaven. Turns out they did not need to settle at all, as Righthaven never had the right to sue. The agreement between Righthaven and the newspapers gave Righthaven only a bare right to sue. According to the Nevada judge, only a true copyright holder could litigate in defense of its own works, since there is no such thing as a "bare right."
Judge John Kane in Colorado has now come to the same conclusion. The judge wrote the following in regards to the case:
A third-party who has been assigned the bare right to sue for infringement has no interest in the legal dissemination of the copyrighted material. That party derives its sole economic benefit by instituting claims of infringement, a course of action which necessarily limits public access to the copyrighted work. This prioritizes economic benefit over public access, in direct contradiction to the constitutionally mandated equilibrium upon which copyright law is based.
The claim against blogger Leland Wolf was thus dismissed. All the other cases in the state were based on the same question, so now they appear to be headed for dismissal as well. The judge did not just dismiss the case either. The judge exercised his discretion under Section 505 of the Copyright Act to order that Righthaven reimburse Leland Wolf's full costs in defending this action, including attorney's fees. Righthaven is already fighting a payment for a case in Nevada, but will probably be required to pay the costs.