Whatever Copyrights Righthaven Might Actually Have Owned Now Transferred To Receiver For Auction
from the and-now-what? dept
This could get interesting. The latest news in the ongoing Righthaven saga is that the judge in the Hoehn case — who had ordered Righthaven to pay attorneys fees which it never paid — has now ordered that all of Righthaven’s “intellectual property,” including the many copyrights in dispute, be turned over to the receiver for auction. As you may recall, Righthaven’s domain has already been auctioned off, but now it appears the copyrights will be too.
Of course, this is a bit tricky, since it’s unclear what, if anything, Righthaven actually “owns” here. Even the company (when it bothered to show up in court, which was increasingly rare) started to claim that it really only held the bare right to sue — which is what sunk its cases, since that right cannot be separated from the other, enumerated rights under copyright law. But, as the court noted, even if there’s a dispute over what rights Righthaven technically has under the agreements it made with Stephens Media’s Las Vegas Review Journal, the company is registered as the copyright holder on hundreds of works. And those are all being auctioned off:
In connection with the Defendant’s judgment enforcement efforts, the Court appointed the Receiver to, among other things, seize the copyrights assigned to Righthaven by various entities (the “Copyrights”), as well as its trademarks and other intangible property, so that they could be sold at auction. (Doc. # 62, 66.) Despite the Receiver’s efforts, Righthaven has not transferred its intellectual property. (Docs. # 70, 81, 82.) The only property that the Receiver has been able to obtain and auction is Righthaven’s former domain name, <righthaven.com>, which was sold for more than $3,000 in a commercially reasonable auction (Docs. # 81, 82).
Based on the evidence submitted to the court by the Receiver (Docs. # 70, 82), Righthaven has failed to substantively participate in the orderly disposition and sale of its intangible assets as ordered on December 12, 2011. (Doc. # 66.) Moreover, Righthaven failed to appear at the originally scheduled January 5, 2012 debtor examination in this case, (Doc. # 71), and failed to appear at the March 5, 2012 hearing giving rise to this Order. (Doc. # 88.)
In light of Righthaven’s lack of participation in these proceedings, and Hoehn’s entitlement to relief (Docs. # 62, 66), this Court concludes it is appropriate to transfer such rights as Righthaven may still hold in Righthaven’s intellectual property to the Receiver, Lara Pearson. The Court deems Righthaven’s conduct in this case to constitute its consent to this Order.
This Court acknowledges that there is a dispute over what intellectual property rights Righthaven actually possesses. Nonetheless, the Court may use its powers under 17 U.S.C. § 201(d)(1) to transfer Righthaven’s copyright rights, whatever they are deemed to be, to the Receiver for auction pursuant to the Court’s December 12, 2011 order (Doc. # 66). While Righthaven has argued now that it does not have more than the bare right to sue, as this Court previously held, Righthaven does possess copyright registrations that can be assigned by operation of law. The copyright registrations to more than 275 works are in Righthaven’s name, can be transferred by this Court, and can then be auctioned by the Receiver.
The order then goes on to list out the 275 copyrights that are registered in Righthaven’s name. Even if the transfers were a sham, the registrations still exist. What can actually be done with them is an open question, because the sham transfer likely means that the rights are still really Stephens Media’s, and if there ever were a legal dispute that would be an issue. But, in the meantime, you may soon be able to “own” a piece of copyright troll history: one of the bogus Righthaven copyright registrations, with which you can legally do, well, absolutely nothing. Though, it could be fun to see if you could convince the Las Vegas Review Journal that it needs to pay up for continuing to host the article for which you hold the copyright registration…