Copyright Troll: Stop Suing Me, Okay?

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Some of my readers are aware of Righthaven, a company which as of this writing has filed nearly 250 lawsuits against blogs and forum operators where content originated by Righthaven partners has been posted.  It appears they may have gotten in over their heads:

Righthaven -- the copyright enforcement partner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post -- since March 2010 has filed at least 249 lawsuits against website operators and message-board posters alleging material from those newspapers was re-posted online without authorization.

The lawsuits generally demand damages of $150,000 and forfeiture of the defendants' website domain names.

Righthaven is regularly accused of coercing defendants into settling by agreeing to settlements under five figures -- settlement amounts that are less than what it would cost to hire attorneys to fight the lawsuits.

Righthaven, however, says its no-warning lawsuits are necessary to deter extensive online infringements of newspaper stories, columns, editorials, photos and graphics.

Unfortunately, Righthaven eventually picked on someone with access to their own lawyers--Democratic Underground, which has apparently enlisted the Electronic Frontier Foundation and is countersuing for coverage of its legal fees, as well as seeking rulings that DU/EFF argue will undermine Righthaven's whole business model.  Righthaven is now accusing its opponents of . . . no, really, I'm not making this up . . . "litigation overkill".

"Defendants have elected to needlessly increase the burden on this court and its staff and to increase the litigation costs incurred by the parties by escalating the litigiousness of the action. Righthaven contends that this is precisely defendants' desired effect in this case -- to drive up their attorneys' fees and costs in an attempt to burden Righthaven with an astronomical fee award," Righthaven said in a filing.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Righthaven if they lose--as they appear fearful that they will.  At what point does the risk of a successful countersuit drive up their costs so far that it no longer makes economic sense to pursue these sorts of suits?

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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