Righthaven seeks domain name transfer – relief that is not called for under the Copyright Act

Tactics suggest overreaching on more than just copyright grounds.

News broke over the Labor Day weekend that Righthaven, that enterprise set up to file copyright lawsuits over alleged infringements of articles from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, sued Nevada senate candidate Sharron Angle. The complaint [PDF] contains two claims for copyright infringement over allegations that Angle posted two articles on her website without authorization.

Let’s set aside for a moment any objections or snickering we might have about Righthaven’s approach, or any disdain we may feel about spamigation in general. There’s one paragraph in the Angle complaint which demonstrates a plaintiff mindset that is over the top on just about any reasonable scale.

In addition to the ususal demands for copyright infringement relief in the complaint (e.g., statutory damages, costs, attorney’s fees, injunction, etc.), Righthaven asks that the court:

[d]irect the current domain name registrar, Namesecure, and any successor domain name registrar for the Domain to lock the Domain and transfer control of the Domain to Righthaven.

Say what?

This is a copyright lawsuit, not one for trademark infringement or cybersquatting. Nothing in the Copyright Act provides the transfer of a domain name as a remedy. Such an order would be tantamount to handing the whole website over to Righthaven just because there may have been a couple of infringing items.

The Copyright Act does provide for the impounding and disposition of infringing articles (See 17 USC 503). So it’s plausible that a court would award the deletion of the actual alleged infringing articles. Or if it wanted to be weirdly and anachronistically quaint about it, could order that the infringing files on the server be removed and somehow destroyed in a way additional to just being deleted. In any event, there’s no basis for a court to order the transfer of a domain name as a result of copyright infringement.

I’ll let you, the reader, decide what you will about Righthaven. But if you decide that their tactics are silly, and in some cases uncalled-for, you won’t be alone.

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  1. Just to clarify, I believe they have demanded the domain name in every lawsuit. For example, I believe they sued the Democratic Party of Nevada and demanded its domain name. Eric.

  2. It seems this tactic gives defendants a way to argue about frivolous claims.

    Maybe a few orders for sanctions will put an end to this stuff. Seriously, is there not enough legitimate work to be done out there?

  3. Thank you Evan for your condemnation of this absurd pleading demand. I strongly feel that the thousands of responsible Intellectual Property attorneys nationwide should pool our resources and talents to put RightHaven and its alter ego attorneys out of business.

    I have been practicing for 30 plus years and always believed that such nonsense would not fly in Federal Court. The unfortunate part of all of this is that the intelligent tech and IP bloggers are transfixed with the Righthaven silliness and turned into a distracting tirade against insignificant targets.

  4. I agree that Righthaven’s pursuit of domain names makes no legal sense. It may have some Machiavellian strategic sense by serving as an additional incentive for the website owner to settle quickly by paying Righthaven a few thousand dollars. In contrast, filing what many view as a nuisance lawsuit against a person who might become a member of the U.S. Senate (i.e., the place where laws – such as the Copyright Act – are made and amended) doesn’t seem so Machiavellian astute.

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