Fighting Back

Pennsylvania Couple Repels Righthaven Extortion Plot

by Nathan Muller (submitted directly)

Smethport, Pennsylvania (February 23, 2011) – Nathan Muller and Linda Muller of Smethport, Pennsylvania (pop. 1600) have successfully foiled an extortion attempt perpetrated by Righthaven, LLC, a firm set up in Las Vegas, Nevada, specifically to extract money under cover of law from webmasters, bloggers and forum posters for alleged copyright infringement.

Nathan Muller said his experience with Righthaven demonstrates that filing copyright suits based solely on Google searches and domain name lookups is fundamentally flawed to the point of recklessness, which placed him and his wife in a false light before the public, as well as to potential publishers and clients.

On August 26, 2010, Righthaven filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, alleging that the Mullers posted without permission an entire article about Sen. Harry Reid which originally appeared in the July 8, 2010 issue of Las Vegas Review-Journal.  The website named in the Righthaven complaint was the facetiously-named “Wehategringos” which covered immigration topics.

“Righthaven’s complaint against us was a work of pure fiction,” said Nathan Muller, the author of 29 Internet related books, who also assists law firms as an expert witness on technology matters.  “This firm portrays itself to prospective clients as ‘the nation’s pre-eminent copyright enforcer’ yet engages in research shortcuts that are not even acceptable for a high school term paper, let alone a court of law.”

In their pro se response to the Righthaven complaint, the Mullers provided documentation proving they had transferred ownership of the website more than one year prior to the alleged infringement and, consequently, the complaint naming them as willful infringers was false.

“We were surprised by Righthaven’s charges of willful copyright infringement,” said Nathan Muller. “Their self-assured, strongly-worded package of false allegations smacked of an extortion attempt, lacking only the stereotypical glued-on letters snipped from a newspaper.  Yet we had to take the matter seriously or risk a default judgment.”

“This matter hung over our heads for six months,” Linda Muller said. “During that time our names have propagated throughout the Internet as law breakers.  It will be almost impossible to salvage our reputations in the eyes of the publishers and clients we deal with, and to attract new business.”

With further research, Righthaven verified the facts presented by the Mullers and on January 21, 2011, filed a motion with the Court for a stay of discovery and a request to file an amended complaint citing the true owner of Wehategringos.

“We have never received a verbal or written apology from Righthaven for turning our personal and professional lives upside down,” said Nathan Muller.  “They only expressed interest in finding the true owner of the website, presumably so they could attempt another quick heist under threat of law.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley, Jr. granted Righthaven’s request for relief on February 18, 2011 and notified all parties.