Righthaven Defendant Asks Judge Not To Let Company ‘Slither Away’

The Righthaven saga continues. Recall that the controversial copyright enforcer last week begged a federal court to lift a $30,000 fee award, saying the payment could force it into bankruptcy. Now, its opponent has shot back in a colorful court filing that calls for Righthaven to post an additional $100,000 bond to cover future appeal costs.

In its reply to Righthaven’s emergency motion of last week, lawyers for Wayne Hoehn suggest the copyright enforcer is lying about its precarious financial position, adding that this is “hardly the first time Righthaven has tried to slither away into the darkness rather than be held accountable for its misdeeds.” Hoehn is a decorated Vietnam veteran who was sued by Righthaven for cutting and pasting a sports column, but who then persuaded a court to dismiss the suit and award $30,000 in attorney’s fees.

Righthaven emerged in 2010 and has since filed over 275 lawsuits as part of a business model under which it sues to enforce the copyrights held by newspapers and then takes a cut of the settlements it extract from small blogs and individuals.

Tomorrow, a federal judge in Nevada must decide whether to accept Righthaven’s claim that the legal fees should be suspended because it is too poor to pay them. The company is also saying the court must grant the stay or else its opponent will decide to collect by seizing Righthaven’s only remaining assets — the intellectual property rights which it uses to sue people — and put the company out of business.

Hoehn’s lawyers say that Righthaven’s argument is nonsense and propose that the court take an alternate approach. Their filing can be summed up like this (paraphrasing is mine):

“Past cases show that Righthaven will try to weasel out of paying a dime to anyone. The company was capitalized by a $500,000 investment and has collected almost $400,000 from its lawsuits. If the company is really in such rough shape, how can it afford to keep going to court and filing appeals all over the place? To teach them a lesson, the court should grant their request staying the judgment — but also force them to put up a bond for the $30,000 plus another $100,000 that it will cost Hoehn to answer Righthaven’s appeal to the 9th Circuit.”

In their filing, Hoehn’s lawyers describe Righthaven’s appeals as “nothing more than a hail mary pass” and say it will take them 200 hours to prepare a response.

The filing is significant because it provides the federal court with a new opportunity to express disapproval of Righthaven. The Nevada court and others have already accused Righthaven of pushing its luck on a number of occasions. Tomorrow, the judge may not only call Righthaven’s bankruptcy’s bluff (if that is indeed what it is) but force it to put more skin in the game through a security bond.

The judge’s order will likely be announced during the day tomorrow.