Rights Holder Uses Non-Existent Law to Enforce Copyright

You’d think that someone who uses the law to enforce copyright would know the laws, at least, reasonably well, before they go threatening people with legal action. Apparently, in one legal threat, one rights holder opted to cite a law in court documents that doesn’t even exist.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

There’s been a lot of legally questionable legal threats over the years in the world of copyright. Sometimes, rights holders use American law to threaten people in other countries. Other times, people are threatened with vague references to the law. In this case, one rights holder has opted to take a website owner to court citing sections of the law that actually doesn’t exist.

Righthaven has been in the news since 2010 over their lawsuit against 250 websites they claimed were infringing on their clients rights. They demanded $150,000 in damages and forfeiture of the domains. If Righthaven hoped to set a standard and create more enforceable rights for the newspaper industry, that case ultimately backfired. The ruling found that the websites in question did not infringe on copyright as this was a case of fair use. The ruling even went so far as to say entire articles being copied and re-posted was also fair use.

It seems that Righthaven wasn’t deterred by such a spectacular defeat in the courts.

After losing that case, Righthaven has apparently filed another lawsuit against another company (PDF) stating, among other things:

3. Order the surrender to Righthaven of all hardware, software, electronic media and domains, including the Domain used to store, disseminate and display the unauthorized versions of any and all copyrighted works as provided for under 17 U.S.C. § 505(b) and/or as authorized by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 64; [AUTHORS NOTE: Found at the bottom of page 15]

Can Righthaven even make this demand? EFF doesn’t think so. EFF said that the lawsuit similar to this was dismissed because it “fails as a matter of law”.

This wasn’t the only reason EFF suggests this lawsuit is going nowhere fast. After looking up § 505, they discovered that § 505(b) doesn’t even exist. Yes, there is no such thing as 17 U.S.C. § 505(b). Maybe Righthaven needs to build a time machine and have that law changed first.

EFF also notes:

Nor is the citation to Rule 64 going to help Righthaven. This is the same argument it raised in Righthaven v. DiBiase, and which the court flatly rejected. Indeed, the argument was silly to begin with, since Rule 64 concerns state law remedies and copyright is a federal law.

As ridiculous as the Righthaven lawsuit sounds at this point, maybe its a blessing in disguise. If they keep filing these junk lawsuits and losing spectacularly every time, maybe we’ll be legally downloading whole copyrighted movies thanks to fair use by 2015. We already have whole cited articles considered fair use now, why stop there?

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: