GateHouse Media Strikes Again: Claims Headlines, Ledes Are Covered By Copyright, Threatens Forum

from the they-never-learn dept

Remember GateHouse Media? The regional news company sued the NY Times for linking to it, claiming it was copyright infringement to include the headline and a brief snippet along with the link (you know, like Google…). Amusingly, it turned out that GateHouse Media was doing the same thing. Eventually the two companies settled, and apparently that’s convinced GateHouse Media that complaining about such links is a good idea.

Via CitMediaLaw we found out that GateHouse Media has sent a cease & desist letter to an online forum, claiming not just that its stories are covered by copyright, but that its headlines and ledes.

We wish to advise you that the stories, headlines and/or ledes that you are copying are the copyrighted property of GateHouse Media… and that your copying constitutes infringement of GateHouse’s rights under U.S. Copyright law. This infringement is not excused by links to the original stories or by indicating the name of the publication in which the content originated.

Of course, it’s not clear that copyright law actually agrees with that. And, even if GateHouse is correct, this makes no sense whatsoever. It’s not as if people reading the Masscops forums are doing so as a substitute for some GateHouse Media news sites. If anything, Masscops is sending traffic to them, and helping new readers discover GateHouse’s sites. What sort of company turns down links and traffic? Not one that’s long for this world…

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Comments on “GateHouse Media Strikes Again: Claims Headlines, Ledes Are Covered By Copyright, Threatens Forum”

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Jeff Beall (profile) says:

I think that GateHouse maybe right on this one. They have a rather open TOS/TOU and is licensed via the Creative Commons, “Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work”. The issue is not that they are linking to stories on the site, but that they are basically doing a cut and paste of the entire story. This doesn’t drive users to GateHouse but only serves as content for MassCops.

Below is the GateHouse TOS for linking to the site.

Unless otherwise prohibited under these Terms of Use, you are permitted to create hyperlinks to the content on the Website (including “deep linking” to articles or pages within site), provided that (1) the hyperlink text accurately describes the content as it appears on the Website, (2) no “scraping” of the content by any means (i.e., extracting content from the Website and reformatting it, aggregating it with other content or redistributing it other than in its complete originally displayed format), (3) under no circumstances may you “frame” the Website or any of its content or copy portions of the Website to a server, except as part of an Internet service provider’s incidental caching of pages and (4) each page within the Website must be displayed in full (including all trademarks, branding, advertising and promotional materials), unaltered without any accompanying frame, border, margin, design, branding, trademark, advertising or promotional materials not originally displayed on the page within the Website. We reserve the right at any time in our sole discretion to revoke this permission generally, or your right to use specific links. If you have any questions regarding these linking policies you may contact us, or if you wish to link in a manner not authorized in these Terms of Use, you must get our prior written permission (see Contact Us below).

Sounds fair to me

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Really? Because it sounds to me like their TOS is attempting to rescind fair use. It is one of those draconian TOS agreements that makes all sorts of claims to rights they never had in the first place.

Few of these claims seem legal. You can’t just say “No Aggregating!” Website owners sometimes don’t seem to understand that hosting a website means making a whole bunch of data available online – it doesn’t give you any right to tell anyone how they can access that data. It’s akin to having a TOS that said “You are not allowed to view this page in Firefox” or something ridiculous like that.

It seems like everything they prohibit in their TOS is actually copyright issue, and as is common with TOSs, they are attempting to circumvent the actual law and gloss over the fact that copyright does not mean they get to dictate every little thing that gets done with their content.

Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me like absolutely none of those linking provisions are enforceable, and most seem downright ridiculous.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s not as if people reading the Masscops forums are doing so as a substitute for some GateHouse Media news sites

I think this is where you are wrong. In a society where the attention span is extremely short, it isn’t unusual for people to be informed by headline alone. In fact, newspapers for years have written the first paragraphs of stories to completely summarize the piece, because people are often too impatient to read the whole story.

As you would say mike, the is no empirical data to suggest that people do anything more than read the headline or the first few words of the story, making them some of the most valuable part of the story.

ChimpBush McHitlerBurton says:

Re: Re:

Well, as ledes are usually no more than a few statements of fact, I don’t see how this is copyrightable. You can not copyright facts, so an article on MJ’s passing might read:

Headline: Michael Jackson: Dead at 50

Lede: Michael Jackson, Pop Singer and personality was found unresponsive in his Neverland Ranch. Pronouced dead at Bevery Hills Hospital by Doctor Thomas Jones, he is survived by his three children and his family.

You can’t copyright that shit. Unless you plan to back up that lede with some good, old fashioned *reporting*, and give me something that is truly original and tells me something that I don’t already know, then all you’ve done is supply me with facts that I could have gotten anywhere. In fact, you probably got them from someone else yourself if all you have is what’s in your lede.

And if you call that “reporting” that needs to be protected from aggregators, then Mike is right; you aren’t long for this world.


Mike C. (profile) says:

Some assumptions being made...

While I believe that Gatehouse is overreaching in their statements, they do have some just cause. I spent some time perusing some of the various other threads on the forum and quickly found a number of them where entire articles were pasted into the thread. I’m wondering if it’s that behavior that initiated the contact from the legal department and the lawyers just went overboard?

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Some assumptions being made...

But that content is all available under a CC license… their use is only infringing if it is commercial, which GateHouse claims MassCops “clearly” is, even if they have “not yet monetized” the site.

It all seems to hinge on that claim, but I don’t see what it is about the forum that makes it “clearly commercial”. In fact it seems very noncommercial…

duane (profile) says:

Sort of skipping over the inmportant part

We wish to advise you that the stories, headlines and/or ledes that you are copying are the copyrighted property of GateHouse Media… and that your copying constitutes infringement.

It may well be that copying and pasting the whole article is infringement. However, it is not the case that all copying of stories or headlines or ledes is infringement. Therefore what they are saying is wrong.

Now the important issue here is, are they being overly broad through ignorance or as a way to assert more control than they have?

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Sort of skipping over the inmportant part

I find it pretty hard to tell when a company like this is being disingenuous versus when it genuinely misunderstands copyright law. The “do not reproduce any part of **** without express permission” disclaimer has become so ubiquitous (despite totally ignoring fair use) that a lot of people, who have seen it at the bottom of countless websites for years, assume they can just slap it on any content they want and thus declare ownership.

I am amazed in my daily conversations how many people don’t know the first thing about copyright law. They really do believe it is ownership and that once you create something you can place whatever restrictions on it you choose, despite the fact that by that definition they commit dozens of incidental “infringements” nearly every day.

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