** UPDATE March 22, 2011:  On March 18, the court dismissed Righthaven’s copyright action against the Center for Intercultural Organizing on the grounds of fair use.**

Righthaven LLC is an intellectual property enforcement firm that was formed by a group of copyright attorneys and Stephens Media, the publisher of the Law Vegas Review-Journal. The company has been making a name for itself; since early 2010, has brought two hundred copyright infringement suits in the District of Nevada alone against Web site owners, forum operators and bloggers alleged to have unauthorized copies of the Review-Journal’s articles on their sites. Recently, it has added other media company clients and expanded its enforcement efforts to other federal districts.
Righthaven is also drawing considerable fire from critics who have denounced the company as a copyright troll, and an attack dog. The criticism is directed at Righthaven’s business model.

The lawsuits target individuals and small, usually non-profit entities and other Web sites that have failed to take advantage of the DMCA safe harbor protection against liability for material posted by a third party. Righthaven makes no takedown demands prior to filing its complaints, which seek not only damages but transfer of the defendant’s domain name. The company then presses for a quick settlement.

So far, about half of the Righthaven lawsuits have settled, probably for the low four figures. Righthaven Lawsuits, a Web site that tracks the Righthaven litigation, estimates that Righthaven has taken in about $364,000 thus far.  But some Righthaven targets are fighting back, raising defenses such as copyright fair use and implied license, in several cases with the assistance of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Righthaven’s lawsuits in the District of Nevada have so far yielded two rulings on the copyright fair use defense and the doctrine of implied license, and may soon yield further rulings on those issues. These opinions should be noted by content owners. The opinions in Righthaven v. Klerks and Righthaven v. Realty One Group suggest a broad view of the fair use doctrine in the online context, and perhaps a potentially even broader view of the application of the doctrine of implied license.