Apparently copyright troll Righthaven is really starting to get worried. After a series of judges have expressed opinions ranging from skepticism to outright hostility toward some of its cases, it has turned to a high-powered copyright litigator: Dale Cendali, who has been involved in a couple of the better-known copyright cases of the last few years: the AP lawsuit against artist Shepard Fairey over the Obama “Hope” poster image, and the lawsuit that prevented print publication of the Harry Potter Lexicon fan encyclopedia.

The interesting thing about this is that Cendali does not come cheap; though her exact billing rates are not available, her law firm is known for being one of the first to break the $1,000-per-hour billing ceiling.

The hiring of Cendali suggests that Stephens Media may be afraid of getting hit with a ruling for attorneys’ fees and actually losing money out of the Righthaven litigation expedition. In any case, it’s hard to imagine how hiring such a high-priced lawyer could be a moneymaker for Righthaven. Eric Goldman, a law professor and blogger who has been critical of Righthaven, told the Las Vegas Sun: “I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Ms. Cendali’s fees in this case end up being many multiples of the maximum damages that Righthaven could possibly hope to get from Pahrump Life. That’s hardly a path to riches for Righthaven,” Goldman said.

Her first case is Righthaven’s lawsuit against a small blog run by a retiree who is defending the case pro se (without a lawyer). In this case, District Judge James Mahan has cited the formerly-secret agreement between Righthaven and its client/owner newspaper company that may render all of Righthaven’s cases legally flawed, and asked that they explain why the case shouldn’t be dismissed for lack of standing. Cendali may have to do some pretty fancy talking to keep the case from getting tossed out—but then, that’s why she’s earning the big bucks.

It remains to be seen whether this is going to be the legal equivalent of extracting blood from a turnip, however.

As a reminder, aside from it being amusing to watch Righthaven wriggle like a fish on a hook it set for itself, these cases have the potential to be quite important to the future of blogging, an important segment of online journalism and reading. We’ve already seen one potentially huge expansion of fair use reposting rights, assuming the preliminary decision isn’t overturned and it ends up setting precedent.


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