Copyright Troll Righthaven Teetering on the Brink

A Nevada federal court slapped copyright troll Righthaven with a $63,700 legal-fee tab, and said the U.S. Marshal Service “is authorized to use reasonable force in the execution of this judgement.”

The Tuesday evening order (.pdf) is the latest indication that Righthaven, formed last year with the idea of suing blogs and websites that re-post newspaper articles without permission, is on the brink of shuttering.

Righthaven has vowed to appeal the order requiring it to pay the legal fees in a lawsuit it lost, in which a judge said re-posting an entire article to a message board is fair use. Yet Righthaven missed the deadline last week to lodge its opening brief before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the fee award and fair-use decision.

A clerk for the U.S. District Court of Nevada, meanwhile, signed a so-called writ of execution demanding the litigation factory pay defendant Wayne Hoehn $34,000 in legal fees plus accrued costs for successfully defending himself against Righthaven’s copyright lawsuit. Righthaven asked for a stay, saying it might slip into bankruptcy if forced to pay.

Instead, the court tacked on interest and additional fees — bringing the total to $63,700.

Marc Randazza, Hoehn’s attorney, asked the court to “authorize the U.S. Marshals to execute Hoehn’s judgment through seizure of Righthaven’s bank accounts, real and personal property, and intangible intellectual property rights for levy, lien, auction or other treatment appropriate for satisfaction of Hoehn’s judgment.” (.pdf)

“We do intend to use this, and any resources that we can bring to bear, in order to finally receive justice for our client,” Randazza said in an e-mail. “We certainly do not feel badly about how this might affect them.”

Struggling after several courtroom setbacks, Righthaven has ceased filing new lawsuits pending resolution of the Hoehn case and others on appeal. Righthaven was also hit with an order last week to pay $120,000 in legal fees in another case it had lost. And its opening briefs on its other two appellate cases are due next week.

Righthaven initially was winning and settling dozens of cases as defendants paid a few thousand dollars each to make the cases go away. But Righthaven has never prevailed in a case that was defended in court. Its sole remaining client is the Las Vegas-Review Journal, the flagship paper of Stephens Media. MediaNews Group of Denver, which owns the Denver Post, dropped Righthaven in September.

The U.S. Copyright Act allows damages of up to $150,000 per infringement, but also grants legal fees and costs to the “prevailing party” in lawsuits. More fee awards against Righthaven are expected.

Steve Gibson, Righthaven’s chief executive, did not immediately respond for comment.

Illustration: Vectorportal/Flickr