Las Vegas Sun

June 23, 2017

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Appeals court rules that Righthaven lacked standing to sue over copyrights

A federal appeals court panel Thursday dismissed an action by a Las Vegas copyright company that sued two individuals for using newspaper articles on their websites.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Righthaven LLC had no standing to file a copyright infringement suit against Wayne Hoehn and Thomas A. DiBiase for using stories in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Righthaven signed an agreement with Stephens Media LLC, the owner of the Review-Journal, that it would search and sue over copyright infringements involving stories appearing in the newspaper. The two companies would split the court judgment in any winning case.

Hoehn pasted an opinion piece from the RJ on public pensions into one of his discussions on his website. DiBiase, a former assistant federal prosecutor, maintains a blog about murder cases in which the victim was never found. He reproduced an RJ story on his blog.

In its decision the court panel said, “Righthaven was not the original owner of the copyrights in these articles.” And the agreement between Righthaven and Stephens said the newspaper owner retained “an exclusive license” to exploit copyright infringement cases.

The opinion, written by Judge Richard Clifton, upholds the findings of Senior District Judge Roger Hunt of Las Vegas.

Clifton said Righthaven, even though it maintained it was the copyright owner, “lacked the rights associated with copyright ownership.” He added, “We conclude that merely calling someone a copyright owner does not make it so.”

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