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

More on the Times Co.’s answer to GateHouse

Blogging at the Nieman Journalism Lab, Zachary Seward takes a deeper look at what I wrote about earlier this week — that the New York Times Co., in its answer to GateHouse Media’s copyright-infringement suit, is alleging similar linking practices by GateHouse, served up with large dollops of hypocrisy and track-covering on GateHouse’s part. (If you’ve just arrived, here’s my best attempt at summarizing the case.)

Seward quotes from an internal e-mail by Howard Owens, GateHouse’s director of digital publishing, in which Owens seems to condone the very linking practices over which GateHouse is now suing the Times Co.

Does this help bolster the Times Co.’s case? Perhaps. What’s missing, though, is any sense of context. What the Times Co. is trying to do with its Your Town sites is, as far as I know, unprecedented in the way that those sites scoop up every GateHouse Wicked Local link of value on a community-by-community basis.

As I’ve tried to make clear from the beginning, I’m not taking sides. I’m just trying to show why this isn’t just a typical case of one news site linking to another.

Also worth checking out is this interview with David Ardia, head of the Citizen Media Law Project, which has compiled a useful dossier on the case.

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  1. Doug Shugarts

    One thought that occurs to me is that if the destination content, at Gatehouse Papers or elsewhere, were more interactive and compelling, then readers would have incentive to click through, even if the linked headline sums up the heart of the story.I think that some of Owens’s previous statements about producing multimedia fast and cheap — to hell with production values — exacerbates the problem. If readers knew that the story on the Gatehouse site contained stellar photography or video, for example, then I suspect that their site stats would not reflect the questionable linking practices of or other sites.

  2. Counsel

    I think Copyright Law is “pretty” clear on these issues, but I don’t think many copyright holders have been willing to take others to court. Sort of like the RIAA suing individuals who downloaded Copyrighted material–legal but not good for publicity due to “expectations.”A quick summary with “opinion” comment with a link to the original source is what I think most “good” sites use to “link” to the source.If you copy the entire story to your site and don’t have to pay for the “collection” of the data, then are you not unjustly enriched? If you are taking “readership” away from a site by doing so, shouldn’t you have to pay for the privilege–a license?It almost always comes down to how much of the material did you use and did you deprive the owner of any protected use.The tricky issue will be whether people who link to stories will also be sued when the stories they link to are not at the site of the original source but at a site that has “copied” the source’s material without a license…Just because “we” feel entitled to copy “information” that has been posted to the Internet does not mean that the material we “copy” is not protected by Copyright. Rather, we might need to adjust our expectations regarding what we are “entitled” to receive. We can provide that education in schools (elementary through University) and at home.Of course, that is just my opinion…

  3. Counsel

    Case settled… However, very few details emerge…Anyone go look to see if the links/content has been removed from the NYTimes sites?

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Counsel: The Times Co. has time to take it down, so I wouldn’t expect to see anything yet. No change as of this morning.

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