Today, Docket # 79, which reveals heretofore unknown information about Righthaven’s business model, was unsealed. As of right now, I don’t believe that any other source has this information. Read the whole thing here.
For those of you lacking fluency in Copyright law, Silvers v. Sony Pictures Entertainment, 402 F.3d 881 (2005), says that you need to assign a specific right under 17 U.S.C. § 106 – and not the bare right to sue – for a copyright assignment to be valid. Other courts, such as Sybersound, have held that you need an exclusive right in order to sue for infringement of your copyright rights.
The document, which Righthaven fought to keep sealed, seems to reveal what many observers suspected all along — that the Righthaven assignments may run afoul of Silvers v. Sony.
As many defendants in Righthaven actions have argued, Righthaven does not truly own the copyrights it sues over. Section 7.2 of the Agreement clearly states that “Righthaven shall have no right or license to Exploit or participate in the receipt of royalties from the Exploitation of the Stephens Media Assigned Copyrights other than the right to proceeds in association with a Recovery.”
Furthermore, it seems that in Section 3.3, Stephens Media, not Righthaven retains the right to determine who gets sued. Section 8 gives Stephens Media the right to terminate any Copyright Assignment and then get a complete reversion of all rights. That doesn’t sound like a valid assignment to me.
In the interest of getting this to press right away, I am publishing the information now. More analysis may be added later, but I have a funny feeling that the comments will fill up with analysis.