Gatehouse And NY Times Settle Linking Dispute: Bad News For Everyone

from the this-isn't-good dept

It appears that GateHouse Media and the NY Times have settled their dispute over the NYT's Boston Globe linking to GateHouse's local events site with a snippet of the text (something GateHouse's own sites did as well). GateHouse had little to no chance of winning in court, but it looks like the NY Times totally caved in to avoid having to deal with a long and costly lawsuit. The result is pretty much bad for everyone.

It's bad for the NY Times, because in settling they've almost guaranteed that plenty of other companies will now come seeking similar "settlements." It's bad for GateHouse Media because in winning "the battle" they're losing the war. The NY Times/Boston Globe will no longer be sending them the traffic they were getting in the past. It's hard to describe the level of pure cluelessness that goes into actively turning away the kind of traffic a major media publication can provide. It's bad for readers of both sites, because it limits the usefulness of the content they get. And... most importantly, it's bad for everyone in failing to have a hard and fast precedent set that linking to such sites and including the headline and a snippet are clearly fair use. What a shame.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Stephen Larson, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 3:12pm

    Traffic is not legal tender

    Gatehouse didn't want to accept traffic as legal tender from a direct competitor.

    I agree that the question of "fair use" was not settled and I wish it was. Some people think wholesale copying of headlines and first paragraph is fair use and others don't.

     

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    Mike (profile), Jan 26th, 2009 @ 3:22pm

    Re: Traffic is not legal tender

    Gatehouse didn't want to accept traffic as legal tender from a direct competitor.

    Um... what?!? Linking to someone is not a contract. There is no guarantee of "payment." If Gatehouse did not want traffic from the NY Times, they could easily block them.

    I agree that the question of "fair use" was not settled and I wish it was. Some people think wholesale copying of headlines and first paragraph is fair use and others don't.

    Yes, there are some people who understand the purpose of copyright law, and a few who don't.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 3:55pm

    This case involved many issues totally separate from copyright law, the most important of all issues clearly being whether or not the NYT was engaging in activity that under state law constituted "unfair competition".

    Based upon the plaintiff's complaint as filed, the copyright claim would have failed at this point in time given that (1) no registrations are in hand, and (2) titles of articles/books have historically not been afforded protection under copyright law.

    There were some state and federal trademark claims, but those likely would have also been easily disposed of by the court.

    What would have remained after the dust settled would have been the state unfair competition claim, and it is this claim that would have been one of first impression and if decided could have provided valuable future guidance on the subject of the degreee to which a party may deep link into the site of another. It is useful to bear in mind that these sites are ad supported, and it is a bit difficult to keep all of your advertisers happy if another company with a larger market presence is able to assist others to bypass the ads.

     

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    Mike (profile), Jan 26th, 2009 @ 4:03pm

    Re:

    It is useful to bear in mind that these sites are ad supported, and it is a bit difficult to keep all of your advertisers happy if another company with a larger market presence is able to assist others to bypass the ads.

    Curious, MLS, how is sending more traffic to your site "bypassing your ads" while not sending any traffic to your site at all, not bypassing your ads?

    Also, how is it unfair competition to send more traffic to the competitor, than not sending any traffic at all?

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 4:33pm

    Re: Re:

    Anent your question, it is of course quite valid. That is why I provided a link a few days ago where a columnist who clearly seemed to favor the NYT position nonetheless urged his readers to consider the situation from the viewpoint of GateHouse before taking sides. If I recall correctly, one possible issue was that perhaps by deep linking the intervening pages on the linked site would be bypassed in such a manner that ads would likewise be bypasses. Do I know this is in fact the case? No, I do not. Nevertheless, it does seem to be an area of legitimate inquiry.

     

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    Mike (profile), Jan 26th, 2009 @ 4:39pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Anent your question, it is of course quite valid. That is why I provided a link a few days ago where a columnist who clearly seemed to favor the NYT position nonetheless urged his readers to consider the situation from the viewpoint of GateHouse before taking sides. If I recall correctly, one possible issue was that perhaps by deep linking the intervening pages on the linked site would be bypassed in such a manner that ads would likewise be bypasses. Do I know this is in fact the case? No, I do not. Nevertheless, it does seem to be an area of legitimate inquiry.

    If the linked sites would somehow bypass the ads, that's not unfair competition, that's BAD WEBSITE DESIGN by Gatehouse Media.

    It's hardly an area of legitimate inquiry. It's a sign of people who don't bother to actually understand the internet and rush to their lawyers before bothering to think.

     

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  7.  
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    Stephen Larson, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 4:40pm

    Re: Re: Traffic is not legal tender

    and there are some people who think understand the purpose of copyright law, and a some who understand that fair use is in the eye of the beholder,

     

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  8.  
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    Mike (profile), Jan 26th, 2009 @ 5:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Traffic is not legal tender

    and there are some people who think understand the purpose of copyright law, and a some who understand that fair use is in the eye of the beholder,

    The second group is wrong. Fair use is a clear part of copyright law. It is not "in the eye of the beholder" but is a clearly delineated part of copyright law.

     

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  9.  
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    John, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 5:17pm

    Precedent

    There's a good word. You know this case will be cited as precedent by anyone else who sues anyone else over links.
    Granted, the case wasn't actually decided by a judge, but sue-ers (also called "plantiffs") will use this case as way to show why they should be able to get away with their own lawsuit.

     

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    I'm not suprised, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 7:10pm

    Foot, meet bullet

    So in the end, Gatehouse gets less traffic.
    Good show.

     

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  11.  
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    Twinrova, Jan 27th, 2009 @ 4:19am

    I'm glad the NYT caved.

    "GateHouse had little to no chance of winning in court"
    Would you be willing to take this chance given the stupid legal decisions being made of late?

    While it seems the NYT would have won, it only seems that way. All it takes is a complete moron of a judge to not understand copyright law and a much worse decision could have been made.

    Or do you not read your own blogs?

    GateHouse will realize its own stupidity once revenue drops. Advertisers are pulling out of newspaper because it's a dying model (and about damn time).

    I was curious when I first read the complaint from GateHouse stating its "ads were being bypassed". WTH? If a link to an article didn't include the ads, whose damn fault was that? Oh, right... the web developer. So GateHouse started crying like a 5 year old about "infringement".

    And you really wanted this to take its chances in court?

    Personal note: The other reason why I'm glad the NYT pulled out goes against their recent editorials and news items, spreading ignorant information to an even more ignorant public.

    I certainly hope the NYT gets so slammed by lawsuits, they'll simply vanish as a "reliable source" of news, er, ignorant propaganda in support for whatever the NYT feels it needs to.

    Good riddance.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2009 @ 9:13am

    ...BAD WEBSITE DESIGN...

    I guess this means that if I do not build a proper fence around my yard then I have no one to blame but myself for having a "bad landscape design".

     

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    Mike (profile), Jan 27th, 2009 @ 10:35am

    Re:

    I guess this means that if I do not build a proper fence around my yard then I have no one to blame but myself for having a "bad landscape design".

    Not at all, but you know that.

    Your yard is clearly private property. Putting up a website online is not private property, but putting up a big sign that says "we're open for traffic!"

     

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  14.  
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    Stephen Larson, Jan 27th, 2009 @ 2:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Traffic is not legal tender

    I used a unclear phrase "in the eye of the beholder". I meant that different people have different ideas about what fair use is. On this issue, I (and Gatehouse apparently) believe copying news headlines and lead paragraph is not fair use. Others disagree. In any case it is not "clearly delineated".

    Hopefully, one day there will be a court ruling one way or the other.

     

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  15.  
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    Nelson Cruz, Jan 27th, 2009 @ 3:54pm

    Gatehouse is right! All those people that got to their news through the NYT will now go through their front page and give Gatehouse millions in advertising revenue. YEAH RIGHT...

    It parallels the music labels looking at P2P download stats and thinking: "look at all those lost sales! If we force all those people to pay we will be filthy rich!".

    Traffic is the "currency" of the internet, and GateHouse Media just threw it away! How many websites wouldn't PAY the NYT for that privilege?? They could easily have put more ads on the news pages (like everybody out there these days), or even make people coming in from NYT go to a page with a big juicy expensive ad first. But no, not GateHouse! They don't to change or adapt anything! It's better to go to court and force the others to comply with their wishes. Who the hell runs this GateHouse Media??? Music execs???

     

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  16.  
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    Nelson Cruz, Jan 27th, 2009 @ 3:56pm

    I meant: They don't *want* to change or adapt anything!

     

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