Monday, February 14, 2011

What's the point of Righthaven's "buying" articles before mass litigation?

As I ponder the whole mass litigation reports of Righthaven’s activity reported here, I wonder, what is the real point of buying a “gone viral” article first before suing?

It seems to me that a newspaper like the Las Vegas Journal Review or Denver Post could simply make arrangements with a law firm to file litigation, without selling ownership rights.  The RIAA artists didn’t have to give up ownership for their litigation against downloaders, did they?

Maybe the “purchase first” speeds up the “process” and saves money somehow, for the plaintiffs.  But it’s beginning to sound very risky – for the plaintiffs.

But it would seem that Righthaven (and all its newspaper customers) are opening themselves up to much stronger fair use defenses. If a newspaper has little prospect of making money off a story or image without a “lawsuit mill”, then one of the pllars of fair use, the effect on the original market, is affected.

So far, the judiciary hasn’t given a clear idea as to whether it will accept “champerty” and we don’t know how appeals courts would look at the issue, much less the US Supreme Court.  The “frivolous” nature of these suits and the obvious intention to shake down “low cost competition” could weigh heavily at the appellate level.   

(See also Jan 22 posting.)

Picture: A shadow out of "Strangers on a Train" perhaps, or film noir.  

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