By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

GateHouse sues over “Your Town” sites

GateHouse Media will file a lawsuit against the New York Times Co. in U.S. District Court, claiming that links to GateHouse content on’s “Your Town” sites constitute copyright infringement, according to an e-mail sent out internally by Kirk Davis, president of GateHouse Media New England.

The case could settle some legal questions about how much one news organization can use of another news org’s content. The sites — currently in Newton, Needham and Waltham — take just a line or a brief summary from GateHouse papers such as the Newton Tab, the Needham Times and the Daily News Tribune of Waltham. (“Your Town” also links to local blogs and other news sites.)’s Bob Kempf, himself a former GateHouse official, has said the goal is to roll out “Your Town” in 120 cities and towns.

Since is selling advertising on its “Your Town” pages, the argument is that the New York Times Co., which owns, is profiting from GateHouse’s journalism. And even if is driving traffic to individual GateHouse stories, there’s an argument to be made that “Your Town” is diminishing the value of GateHouse’s “Wicked Local” home pages in those communities.

The full text of Davis’ e-mail is as follows:

To Staff:

As many of you know, there has been considerable discussion within our organization about developments surrounding our local web sites, particularly Newton, as we have followed The Boston Globe’s announced plans for community web sites and how they have executed their strategy.

After being unable to resolve the matter informally, GateHouse has commenced legal action in federal district court in Boston today against the New York Times Company in order to prevent the continuing infringement by of GateHouse’s valuable intellectual property, created through the effort, experience and expertise of GateHouse personnel. GateHouse has taken this step to enforce its rights under the law and protect the integrity of its trademarks and original news content, in furtherance of its ability to provide hyperlocal news coverage to its newspaper readers and website viewers in the communities throughout the greater Boston region which it has served over many years.

As a matter of policy, I won’t be commenting further on this matter. Instead, it is appropriate that we let this matter take its natural legal course. Simply put, I hope you derive from this development that we value greatly your efforts, commitment and talent.

When appropriate I will update you further on this matter.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the holidays. It’s unfortunate that the economic backdrop is so unsettling, but we’ll work through it. As I have shared with you many times, we occupy an important niche in the media mix. Local news and relationships are our strength and we will safeguard both.

On behalf of the senior management team, we deeply appreciate your commitment!


Kirk Davis
GateHouse Media New England

This is one of the most important stories in the newspaper business right now. It will be fascinating to see how it plays out.

Discover more from Media Nation

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


The wrong solution to the wrong problem


Universal Hub won’t link to GateHouse


  1. Ron Newman

    I link to GateHouse content all the time, sometimes on Universal Hub, sometimes on Davis Square LiveJournal or other LiveJournal communities. Other folks on UniversalHub do the same thing.The GateHouse editors have never objected to this. How is our activity different from’s ?

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Ron: I think there are some key differences, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the legal filings. I know what you mean — I keep going back and forth myself.

  3. Adam Gaffin

    Well, you won’t be seeing any more links from me to GateHouse content. While I doubt they’d sue me, their content isn’t worth the risk to me; I’ll have to find other ways to link folks to information in the towns GateHouse covers.

  4. Ani

    Sounds like, just as hard cases make bad law,’s pushing the envelope, and GateHouse’s commensurate response to it, are making things more difficult for others.

  5. Steve

    I don’t think I get it. I wonder if Gatehouse does posts headlines from Gatehouse. Click on the headline and it goes to Gatehouse’s site, driving up their traffic and presumably their ad revenue. Gatehouse is complaining why?

  6. Chuck Tanowitz

    I’ve recently seen an interesting phenomenon going on with links. When people like Adam first started linking to my sites I’d get a big spike in traffic. Now people read what he says and comment on UH rather than coming over to the other site.I believe that in the case of this means that they’re not driving traffic as much as creating a news digest on which they then sell ads. All of this feels more like a change in reader habits than in the nature of the Web.

  7. Ben Becker

    I think this is an interesting example of chilling effects.If GateHouse sues the Globe and Universal Hub and other Boston-area blogs stop linking to GateHouse, will their traffic take enough of a hit that they pull their lawsuit?Or, to put it another way, if GateHouse becomes a link pariah, how will they respond?

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Steve: I get it, but it’s hard to explain because it’s hard to draw the distinction between what and Universal Hub are doing. And unless GateHouse can come up with a clear, explicit way of defining it, then I think it is going to become a “link pariah,” as Ben puts it.But let me give it a try. Let’s start with the fact that both and Universal Hub are advertiser-supported and thus commercial, so neither can point to the Creative Commons license that GateHouse puts on its Wicked Local sites.Now, then. Universal Hub is a blog whose editor, Adam Gaffin, links to and comments on news items from hundreds of different sources, including GateHouse papers, in dozens of is establishing a series of hyperlocal sites that gather together just about every news tidbit in a community that’s worth knowing, including headlines and summaries from the local GateHouse paper.I can easily see a difference, but I don’t think it’s easily put into language that would reassure Adam.

  9. Jerry

    If it takes this sort of action to establish that news content has monetary value, so be it. Identifying the value (and expense) of producing news reports has been the missing element in every media deal since some damn fool(s) first decided it made sense to give the seed corn away.

  10. Ani

    Dan, do you think that the congruence of what and GateHouse are doing by both focusing on geography is significant?

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Ani: I’m not sure what you mean.

  12. Ani

    GateHouse is known for its local coverage, yes? And is trying to do local coverage, community by community like GateHouse does, if I understand this — so there seems to be some attempt at replication of core mission of the “host” entity, rather than than the “parasitic” entity just happens to be linking to GateHouse stuff while pursuing another mission. Sorry for all the lousy metaphors.

  13. Dan Kennedy

    Ani: I’m posting the full text of the complaint in a few minutes.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén