Truly a Troll: Righthaven Suing Over TSA Pat-Down Photo

Steve Green in the Las Vegas Sun reports about a new spate of lawsuits filed by Righthaven against bloggers who have reposted a photo from the Denver Post showing a TSA pat-down of a passenger’s crotch: Blogger, websites sued by Righthaven over ‘TSA enhanced pat-down’ photo

What’s new – and troubling – with these latest lawsuits is that the people being sued may have had no idea that the photo they were using originated with the Denver Post. Since the photo went viral, it’s showed up in Google image search results disconnected from the Denver Post.

Bloggers worried about getting sued by Righthaven had previously been able to steer clear of newspaper sites owned by companies doing business with Righthaven. But that is no longer a way to insulate yourself from Righthaven’s wrath. Using an image from a completely random website – one you might deem unlike to sue, or at least likely to share a commodious understanding of fair use – might land you in the Righthaven drift nets.

I am not a big fan of using the word “troll” to describe people enforcing intellectual property rights. And I’ve resisted using it to describe Righthaven litigation against people who reposted stories from newspapers. But what Righthaven is now doing can truly be called trolling.

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2 Responses to “Truly a Troll: Righthaven Suing Over TSA Pat-Down Photo”

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  2. anono mouse says:

    ‘Champerty’ is unethical behavior that occurs when a person or company obtains an interest (like an assignment of copyright) in something by merely taking part in a lawsuit in which the person or company otherwise has no independent right to join.
    ‘Maintenance’ is officious intermeddling in a lawsuit that in no way belongs to the intermeddler by maintaining or assisting some party to the case, with money or otherwise, to prosecute the case. Maintenance occurs when one supporting, promotes, or maintains, the court litigation of some other person. To maintain the other person’s lawsuit is unlawful unless the person maintaining has a legitimate interest or right in the object of the suit.
    Champerty is a subcategory of maintenance whereby the intermeddler strikes a deal with one of the parties to the lawsuit to be paid out of any proceeds of the case. Champerty is a bargain to share the proceeds of a lawsuit between the rightful owner of the claim and the intermeddler supporting or enforcing the claim in a lawsuit.
    Champerty is repugnant to public policy against profiteering and speculating in litigation or lawsuits; and Champerty provides grounds for denying any relief from the court. At common law, a victim of champerty or maintenance had a cause of action for champerty, and, the doctrines of champerty and maintenance can still be used to undo the assignment of contracts or transactions.
    Courts developed the laws of champerty and maintenance to prevent officious intermeddlers from stirring up trouble and conflict by vexatious and speculative litigation that would otherwise disturb the serenity of society, lead to corrupt practices, and prevent the remedial function of law by clogging up the courts’ dockets. However, the doctrines of common-law champerty and maintenance are no longer recognized in may jurisdictions.
    Claims for maintenance or champerty have been substituted with causes of action for malicious prosecution, abuse of process, frivolous litigation, and the rules of professional conduct for attorneys.

    The writing above is original work by this author and may be reprinted and republished without permission.

    “A champertous agreement is one in which a person without interest in another’s litigation undertakes to carry on the litigation at his own expense, in whole or in part, in consideration of receiving, in the event of success, a part of the proceeds of the litigation.” Martin v. Morgan Drive Away, Inc., 665 F.2d 598, 603 (5th Cir.1982), cert. dismissed, 458 U.S. 1122, 103 S.Ct. 5, 73 L.Ed.2d 1394 (1982). “To maintain the suit of another is now, and always has been, held to be unlawful, unless the person maintaining has some interest in the subject of the suit.” Lum v. Stinnett, 87 Nev. 402, 408, 488 P.2d 347, 350 (1971) (citing Gruber v. Baker, 20 Nev. 453, 23 P. 858, 862 (1890)). “Where a person promoting the suit of another has any interest whatever, legal or equitable, in the thing *590 demanded, … he is in effect also a suitor according to the nature and extent of his interest.” McIntosh v. Harbour Club Villas Condominium, 421 So.2d 10, 11 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1982).

    Schwartz v. Eliades, 113 Nev. 586, 589-590, 939 P.2d 1034, 1036 (Nev.1997).

    The excerpt above is a quote from case law in the public record.