It looks like Righthaven, the so-called “copyright enforcement” company which questionably defends copyrights for American newspaper mogul Stephens Media, may finally have to officially answer for their practice of seeking cash settlements from blogs and news agencies that use photos and text excerpts from Stevens-owned publications.
Buzzfeed, a website that displays the Internet’s most viral posts and videos, has decided to fight back against a Righthaven case filed against them by filing a class-action countersuit that seeks to represent defendants in all of the 57 current cases the company has open in the state of Colorado.
The counterclaim charges that all of the defendants “are victims of extortion litigation by Righthaven, which has made such extortion litigation a part of its, if not its entire, business model.”
“As a result of Righthaven’s unlawful actions, class plaintiffs and members of the proposed class were forced either to fight needless litigation or to pay Righthaven a settlement fee, which they would not have had to pay, had Righthaven engaged in legitimate business practices,” states the complaint filed by Buzzfeed attorneys Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP.
The countersuit takes issue with more than just the sketchy settlement scheme. Righthaven has a history of failing to provide DMCA takedown notices or attempting to negotiate licenses with the companies it targets. The company has also, in some cases, requested that offending domains be transferred over to them, an action that Buzzfeed claims is “asserted solely for the purposes of harassment and information.” Then there is the recently discovered matter that Righthaven only gains the “right to sue” over Stephens Media content, and has no copyright control.
Buzzfeed is also claiming an “implied license” defense for the photo in question, which happens to be the same one at the center of the recent case where Righthaven sued Ars Technica writer Eriq Gardner. The case states that the Denver Post granted such a license through “links and features encouraging the sharing of the work via: (1) emailing the story; (2) recommending the article on Facebook; (3) using the `Bookmark & Share’ feature to share the article on more than 330 websites and social media outlets; and (4) linking the article on Twitter.”
We already know that Righthaven doesn’t take too kindly to defendants who question their ways and drive up their attorney fees. Maybe this class-action suit will put an end to their nonsense once and for all.