On Tuesday U.S. District Court Judge John Kane followed a precedent set by a federal judge in Las Vegas, declaring that the copyright law firm Righthaven lacks legal standing to sue on the behalf of newspapers--ironically because it isn't the true owner of the copyright either.
In his summary judgement, Judge Kane dismissed the infringement claim against conservative blogger Leland Wolf and ordered Righthaven to pay his legal fees. Righthaven now stands to lose the other 50-plus lawsuits it has filed on behalf of the Denver Post according to the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog.
Though MediaNews Group transferred its copyrights to Righthaven to seek redress (but has since ended relations with Righthaven after coming under new ownership), Judge Kane wrote that the company's model "prioritizes economic benefit over public access".
Attorney David Kerr, who represented another blogger targeted by the firm, told Westword that Judge Kane's ruling "should be a warning to others that federal copyright lawsuits are not the legal equivalent to ATM machines".
Judge Kane explains in his summary judgement (full document below):
A third-party who has been assigned the bare right to sue for infringement has no interest in the legal dissemination of the copyrighted material. On the contrary, that party derives its sole economic benefit by instituting claims of infringement, a course of action which necessarily limits public access to the copyrighted work. This prioritizes economic benefit over public access, in direct contradiction to the constitutionally mandated equilibrium upon which copyright law is based.
Flickr photo via Mr. T in DCRead U.S. District Court Judge John Kane's summary judgment: Righthaven Summary Judgment