Illustration by Bob MacNeil

Righthaven, the law firm infamous for its copyright litigiousness, in recent months has been slapped with a federal judge’s order, seizing thousands in its assets and sending it out of business, even as it found itself slapped back by an appellate court on yet more of its bodacious claims. With its all-out assaults on parties it says infringed on rights held by others, Righthaven rode high for awhile before its crash into what critics proclaimed a slow-coming, much-deserved ignominy for the practice now commonly dubbed “copyright trolling.” But its aggressive tactics, by which lawyers extracted in excess of hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements, haven’t gone away: See Exhibit ‘A’, the recent lawsuit filing against Bleacher Report, Inc. The context differs here but the method is the same. In Righthaven cases, the firm asserted infringement claims on behalf of its clients against online defendants for the unauthorized use of newspaper articles. Those who have taken up in Righthaven’s tracks — in perfectly legal fashion, and, some may argue in the interests of clients — are attorneys scouring the web for infringement claims on behalf of stock photo sites. The complaint, e-filed on Sept. 18,  asserts infringement by Bleacher Report Inc., for unauthorized use of photos of a female celebrity and Mark Sanchez, a quarterback for the NFL’s New York Jets and before that USC. The claim is that rights to this shot belong to National Photo Group LLC,  the registered copyright holder and plaintiff. This situation, and others, those on the other side complain, isn’t just a run-of-the-mill rights dispute because, ala Righthaven, some scorched-earth legal tactics have returned. Those who run online sites say they’re getting barraged with demand letters from firms seeking compensation for use of photos ranging from a few hundred dollars to $20,000 per alleged infringement. They also contend that the demand-letter step gets omitted, with the sudden arrival of a summons and complaint in the mail.