MediaNews Group CEO: It Was a ‘Dumb Idea’ to Hire Righthaven

The publisher won't pursue current litigation

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Struggling copyright troll Righthaven is about to lose half of its two-company client list, according to the new CEO of Denver-based newspaper chain MediaNews Group.

MediaNews chief John Paton, who replaced former head Dean Singleton on Wednesday, told Wired that the publisher’s year-long copyright infringement litigation deal with Righthaven is coming to a close at the end of the month and he doesn’t intend to renew it. MediaNews publishes the Denver Post and 50 other newspapers, and is Righthaven’s only client apart from Las Vegas based Stephens Media.

“The issues about copyright are real,” said Paton. “But the idea that you would hire someone on an—essentially—success fee to run around and sue people at will who may or may not have infringed as a way of protecting yourself … does not reflect how news is created and disseminated in the modern world.”

“I come from the idea that it was a dumb idea from the start,” Paton said, adding that if he were MediaNews’ CEO a year ago, he likely wouldn’t have signed on with Righthaven at all.

Three dozen outstanding MediaNews infringement cases concerning Denver Post material are on hold for now, and will likely remain active while the judge determines whether Righthaven has the right to sue on behalf of Denver Post copyrights. MediaNews VP Sara Glines told Wired that although the publisher doesn’t intend to pursue further litigation, “It’s more complicated than that because the cases are with Righthaven, and they have control as long as litigation is in process.”

Righthaven’s recent lawsuits filed on behalf of Stephens Media in Nevada have been repeatedly shot down by judges, and the company hasn’t filed a new case in two months. A spokeswoman told Wired that Righthaven is awaiting appellate rulings on the issues of standing and fair use before pursuing more litigation.

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.