I’m glad I paid extra for the upgrade to unlimited free popcorn refills. Techdirt and Ars Technica are reporting on the continuing saga of Righthaven’s “Schroedinger’s CEO” Steve Gibson and his attempt to hire more lawyers to continue litigating one of the cases the copyright troll infamously lost.

The Techdirt piece largely covers Gibson’s tortured arguments that the court-appointed receiver, Lara Pearson, lacks the authority to fire him. The reasoning seems to boil down to a bunch of legalese about the nature of limited liability companies. Gibson insists he does have the right to hire additional lawyers to argue an appeal, and feels that Pearson is not planning to put full effort into that appeal.

The Ars Technica piece goes into more detail about the case in question, and Gibson’s desire to argue the appeal. He feels that Righthaven’s arguments would prevail in an appeals court, reversing the damage of the initial judgments against it. He also claims that the lawyers are being paid for out of non-Righthaven-related assets.

I actually would like to see the issue Righthaven was arguing get appealed, and even go all the way up to the Supreme Court if possible—since the particular case is the one that would set a strong precedent expanding fair use, allowing the reposting of an entire article for nonprofit purposes. The higher a court reaffirms the decision, the broader precedent it will set.

Even if it doesn’t get that far, I think the whole Righthaven mess has nonetheless strengthened fair use overall, if only by making sure as many people rush to the opposite side of the bus from the copyright troll as possible. Nobody else wants to risk looking quite that ridiculous.


  1. Chris,
    I know that Righthaven is acting like a dog in the manger, and abusing copyright. BUT I think that the precedent that could be set here is extremely dangerous.

    Fair use is limited for a reason. And the right to control WHO reproduces your work, WHEN, WHERE and in WHAT CONTEXT is very important. The lack of a profit motive in the reproduction does not, ever, mean that there will be no damage to the profit-making ability of the rights holder. Nor does it mean that the reproduction isn’t going to be profoundly offensive to the rights holder.

    Consider someone writing about their experience during the Holocaust. Imagine how appalling it would be if their work was taken, without permission, framed in a neo-Nazi propaganda piece, and given away at white supremacist rallies. No profit motive there. But a travesty anyway.

    Or consider someone of deeply conservative Islamic beliefs who wrote a poem of love of God, but whose words were used in a pornographic anthology.

    I’m sure you can think of dozens of other possibilities without strain.

    And what about someone who has an anthology of science writing or history or whatever being prepared, only to find that some non-profit is issuing all of the material on-line. It MIGHT increase awareness, interest and sales, but there are obviously situations where it might eviscerate sales. Shouldn’t the rights holder have the ability to decide whether and when that use will help or harm them?

    If we want to increase the use of rights, we need to expand the purview of organizations like the Copyright Clearance Center. That would make the micro-payments for micro-uses and clearing of permissions easy.

    And if money was likely to come from it, I suggest that it would mean that rights holders would keep their information current! It’s an easy solution to the orphan works problem.

    Remember, we can’t change the copyright system on our own. We have to move along with all the rest of the world. The Berne Convention was hard enough to get — changing it is practically impossible. But working within it to make our goals possible is far, far easier.

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