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Androvett Blog

by Dave Moore at 4:56:31 pm

Dallas trademark and copyright attorney Dyan House: Newspaper copyright plaintiff lacks standing in court

There’s no doubt that the newspaper industry has been on the ropes since roughly 1999, when the public increasingly accessed the publications’ copyright-protected content using internet search engines, instead of buying copies of the publications via subscription or single copies.

Adding insult to injury are websites and aggregators that lift news stories wholesale without authorization or attribution to their original sources.

The combined effect has resulted in the rapid downward spiral of newspapers across the country, with 14 publications ceasing existence since March 2007, and another eight that have become hybrid operations or strictly online publications, according to NewspaperDeathWatch.com.

Seeing a possible opportunity in this conflict, a firm named Righthaven built its business around the notion of suing individuals or companies that post copyright-protected news stories online without consent of the content producer.

Righthaven has busily followed that business model, filing 275 cases since 2010.

That effort saw a major defeat recently, when a federal judge ordered Righthaven  to pay a defendant in one of its cases almost $120,000 in attorneys’ fees, and earlier orders in other cases to pay legal fees ranging from $5,000 to $34,000. “The flaw in Righthaven’s business model is that the company doesn’t hold any exclusive rights under the copyrights for which it is attempting to sue,” said Dyan House of Dallas’ Munck Carter. Section 501 of the Copyright Act says that only the legal or beneficial owner of an exclusive right under copyright law may sue for infringement, she explains. “Righthaven simply lacks standing.”