Righthaven Backer Rails Against World + Dog, Seeks To Re-open Case

It's been two weeks since US District Judge Roger Hunt effectively decapitated Righthaven's business strategy of falsely claiming copyright ownership before suing everyone in sight. Righthaven and its partner Stephens Media, however, don't seem to have gotten the message. Much as a chicken can continue to run around sans head, the company's lawyers continue to embarrass themselves.

The latest bit of foul play is a half-baked attempt to introduce a further-amended agreement between Righthaven and Stephens Media. Stephens claims this is justifiable because the company "has been left to defend a non-infringement declaratory counterclaim despite the fact that it is precluded from filing an infringement suit against Democratic Underground." The reason Stephens Media ended up in an odd position vis-a-vis Democratic Underground in the first place is that the company was not initially named in the original lawsuit.

Once Stephens Media entered the suit as a counter-defendant, Digital Underground asked the judge to grant declaratory relief. Such relief, if granted, requires Stephens Media to admit Digital Underground did not infringe on its copyright. Stephens Media in turn asked Judge Hunt to dismiss DU's counterclaim on the grounds that it had transferred all such rights to Righthaven and there was "no justiciable case or controversy between Stephens Media." As it turns out, Stephens Media's then-CEO Sherman Frederick threatened to "send his little friend called Righthaven" after multiple defendants.

Two weeks after being thoroughly chastened for dishonest behavior, Stephens Media is attempting to claim (for the second time) that the court should treat its newly amended agreement with Righthaven as retroactively applicable. The company claims that under the new agreement it's a non-exclusive licensee of its own copyrighted works. Since Stephens Media can't sue, Digital Underground's request for relief makes no sense.

Adding to the amusement factor is a recent blog post from former Stephens Media CEO, Sherman Frederick. In true troll fashion, he begins his post with the following:
The unthinking blogger and those who condone stealing content mischaracterize reality when it comes to newspaper attempts to control its own content. They're like a bunch of kids camping out in the backyard, sticking a flashlight under their chin and telling each other scary stories. Nothing wrong with that if you're 8 years old, but when you seriously attempt to comment on this important and developing topic, such campfire "analysis" simply won't do.
He follows up with three articles he claims "attempt to give the topic a thinking review." All are written by the same author; the first is thoroughly outdated with regard to the case and the third is a general argument in favor of IP litigation. Both the original author and Frederick close with the following: "Every author, blogger and publisher can decide for him or herself whether copying something is worth the price."

Stephens Media's most recent filing, and Frederick's blog post both ignore the reasons Righthaven and Stephens Media are in such legal dire straits. Both organizations have variously acted in bad faith, failed to disclose substantial and pertinent documents, and attempted to drastically reinterpret copyright law. Most ludicrously, Stephens Media continues to claim the court should apply its amended agreement ex post facto. This isn't a case about whether or not Stephens Media is fighting the good fight on behalf of copyright owners.

In short, Stephens Media advances an argument Judge Hunt has already torn to shreds. We doubt he's going to be any more excited to hear it the second time around. As for Sherman, his tinpot dictatorship is over.