A sports betting enthusiast who successfully defended himself against a lawsuit by Righthaven is now trying to turn the screws on the copyright enforcer. In an effort to collect unpaid legal bills, lawyers for Wayne Hoehn have asked a Nevada federal judge for permission to take ownership of Righthaven’s assets. If successful, the move will likely mean game over for the controversial firm that earned hundreds of thousands of dollars by suing individuals who cut and pasted newspaper articles from the Internet.
In weekend filings, lawyers for Wayne Hoehn asked a Nevada federal judge for permission to seize Righthaven’s “bank accounts, real and personal property, and intangible intellectual property rights.” Hoehn, a decorated Vietnam veteran, earlier this year successfully defended a Righthaven lawsuit that demanded he pay up for posting a newspaper article on the website Madjack Sports.
Righthaven has filed over 275 such copyright lawsuits since early 2010 and makes its money by sharing a cut of any settlements it collects. Its business model was rocked, however, after a federal judge this summer ruled that it did not have standing to bring the lawsuits and after one of Righthaven’s two newspaper clients decided to end the arrangement, calling it “a dumb idea.”
If the court grants Hoehn’s latest request, the outcome could be disastrous for Righthaven because the company would lose control of the intellectual property assets that form the basis of its lawsuits. Righthaven described this fear 10 days ago in a court filing that warned of bankruptcy and begged the court to suspend Hoehn’s right to collect his legal fees.
In that filing, Righthaven also said it would win a pending appeal because it had fixed the legal problem that had led the judge to conclude that it did not have standing to sue. If Righthaven is telling the truth, the company now possesses clear title to the copyrights of the newspaper articles — copyrights that Hoehn is poised to seize.
Hoehn wants to seize the assets to pay for his original legal fees of $34,045 plus approximately $14,200 in fees and interest that have accumulated since then. He is also asking the court to find Righthaven in contempt for ignoring orders to pay. If the judge finds Righthaven in contempt, he could order significant fines or even jail time.