Limited Copyright Assignment For Lawsuit Not Valid

According to the Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit, Plaintiff did not have standing, the legal jurisdictional requirement necessary to sue the alleged copyright infringing Defendants in the case of Righthaven LLC v. Hoehn. Plaintiff Righthaven LLC was founded, according to its charter, to identify copyright infringements on behalf of third parties, receive “limited, revocable assignments” of those copyrights, and then sue the infringers. Righthaven filed separate suits against Defendants Hoehn and DiBiase for displaying copyrighted Las Vegas Review-Journal articles without authorization on different websites.

In a basic substance over form ruling, the Court cited the Abraham Lincoln story about a lawyer who tried to establish that a calf had five legs by calling its tail a leg. Arguing such did not make it so. Here, Righthaven was established merely to troll for copyright infringers. Other than the right to sue, the company lacked the usual rights associated with copyright ownership. In Justice Clifton’s words: “Heeding Lincoln’s wisdom, and the requirements of the Copyright Act, we conclude that merely calling someone a copyright owner does not make it so.”