Consumer News Roundup, Week of September 12th, 2011

Intellectual property is the new legal battlefield, as one industry after another lawyers up to try to make money from its IP, instead of making money from, say, a product people want to buy.

Righthaven, for example, has been running around suing bloggers and website owners who use quotations of copyrighted works. This is fair use, but Righthaven doesn’t care. Which is why it just got slapped with an order to pay $34,045.50 in attorney fees. Trying to weasel out of the inevitable, Righthaven tried to argue that it shouldn’t have to pay attorney fees because its claims were frivolous in the first place. Right. Props to the Randazza Legal Group and J. Malcolm DeVoy for a well-deserved check.

Porn producer Mick Haig Productions has another approach. Reasoning that porn pirates will be so embarassed at the prospect of being exposed that they will just pay up, it follows the RIAA’s model of filing a lawsuit, requesting to subpoena hundreds of downloaders’ information from their ISPs, and then sending threatening settlement letters. Only in a recent Texas case, the judge told Haig’s attorney, Evan Stone, that he couldn’t send the subpoenas. He did anyway. So the court ordered Stone to pay a $10,000 penalty, attorney fees, and to inform the court in every action he has filed about the sanctions. Harsh, yes, but also well-deserved by Stone.

Enough intellectual property. How about a bank that actually helps you avoid fees? Maybe. A Consumerist reader reports that Charles Schwab Bank let him know he didn’t have the funds to cover an impending auto-debit. Yeah, me too.

Payday lending is a bad deal. It’s even worse when the lender automatically rolls over the loans, resulting in extra charges. Which is illegal in Minnesota, at least. That’s why the Minnesota Attorney General just sued 5 internet payday lenders for automatically extending payday loans.

Finally, watch out, because your bank could fall prey to the same hack used by News of the World to hack into phones in the UK. Apparently, it works just as well for phone banking systems like the ones used by Chase and Bank of America (and probably most other major banks). But don’t worry, I’m sure the banks will take this seriously and fix the vulnerability.