In the popular story “The Hobbit” there is a part where trolls turn to stone in sunlight. It seems that the same thing might be happening to a company called Righthaven, that was suing hundreds of blogs and web sites for posting portions of articles that were published in various papers owned by another company called Stephens Media, while pretending that Stephens Media had no interest in the lawsuit.
According to the Electron Frontier Foundation (and I have not seen the actual order myself):
a federal court in Las Vegas ordered the notorious copyright troll Righthaven to pay $5,000 in sanctions and to file the court transcript containing its admonishment in hundreds of other copyright cases.
Wow! That’s pretty heavy, but apparently the judge further stated:
In the Court’s view, the arrangement between Righthaven and Stephens Media is nothing more nor less than a law firm, which, incidentally, I don’t think is licensed to practice law in this state, but a law firm with a contingent fee agreement masquerading as a company that’s a party.
Doesn’t sound good. Of course the attorney who is CEO of Righthaven has brushed off this, claiming that the judge has no power to sanction him or his company, and going on The Las Vegas Sun with a video saying how he believes that his attorneys will have him appeal the judge.
I think that Righthaven would do well to back down from a fight with at least one pissed federal judge, but based on their public statements, it seems that they intend to continue.
That said, I think Righthaven has helped clarify some questions about copyright laws that many people may have wondered about (for example why I have no commercial interest in this site). It’s unfortunate that much of what we say or do online can cause repercussions behind what you might think or realize, and sadly I expect that the legal situation will only become more dire, with congress until recently having spent more time trying to increase criminal penalties for copyright related issues than it did on the budget.