Mystery Buyer Wins Auction for Copyright Troll’s Domain

The online domain for Righthaven — a copyright-troll law firm that failed in its attempt to make money for newspapers by suing people for sharing stories online — has sold at auction for $3,300 to help satisfy the Las Vegas company’s debts, but the winning bidder has yet to come forward.’s online auction opened on Dec. 26 for $100 and ended Friday at $3,300. The auction is intended to help recoup $63,000 in legal fees Righthaven owes after it lost a case in which a federal judge said that reposting an entire news article in an online forum was fair use — an issue Righthaven has appealed.

The list of possible buyers isn’t known but one could imagine a civil liberties group loving to claim it as a trophy or perhaps more likely, a domain squatter guessing that all the negative links to the domain name might be turned into a little cash.

The domain auction was to help pay Las Vegas lawyer Marc Randazza for successfully defending Vietnam veteran Wayne Hoen against a Righthaven copyright lawsuit that sought large damages for posting the entirety of a Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial to a small online message board. Randazza isn’t saying who bought the domain.

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.”

Righthaven has ceased filing new lawsuits, pending resolution of that case and others on appeal. Righthaven was also hit with a separate order in October to pay $120,000 in legal fees in another case it had lost.

Righthaven was formed in the spring of 2010 with the idea of suing blogs and websites that re-post newspaper articles or snippets of them without permission. Now it appears that the Righthaven saga is largely over — and it’s unclear whether the company will have the financial wherewithal to maintain its appeal in a closely watched fair-use copyright case.

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. Ironically, Righthaven sought — as payment — the domains owned by the people it was suing. Now it has lost its own domain in the process while threatening to file for bankruptcy protection.

Photo: State Library of Victoria Collections/Flickr