Local News Website Says You Need To Pay To Read Its Stories, Says It's Collecting Visitor IPs To Sue

from the that'll-go-over-well dept

Well, here’s a fun one. Apparently, there’s a local news site known as The North Country Gazette (don’t click that just yet…) covering parts of upstate New York via a blog format. Rather than putting in place an actual technical paywall, the site has apparently decided to go with a paywall-by-threat model. If you visit a story on the site, it tells you that you’re only allowed to view one page for free, and then they expect you to pay up:

Gotta love that Comic Sans font — in red, no less. Anyway, if you do “abuse the privilege,” apparently you come up against the following (which now appears to have been taken down, perhaps due to all of the attention):
In case you can’t see/read the image, it reads:

A subscription is required at North Country Gazette. We allow only one free read per visitor. We are currently gathering IPs and computer info on persistent intruders who refuse to buy subscription and are engaging in a theft of services. We have engaged an attorney who will be doing a bulk subpoena demand on each ISP involved, particularly Verizon Droids, Frontier and Road Runner, and will then pursue individual legal actions.

Where to start? First, I love how “Verizon Droid” (a phone) is included in the list of ISPs. But, more to the point, this site seems to believe that if it just says you can only visit once without paying, and you don’t, it has the right to then use your IP to sue you for “theft of services.” I’d love to see how well that plays out in court.

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Comments on “Local News Website Says You Need To Pay To Read Its Stories, Says It's Collecting Visitor IPs To Sue”

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126 Comments
ofb2632 (profile) says:

sue me

i just clicked on it and i hope they got my ip. I am currently very bored and would love to counter-sue for all the emotional damage this may have caused me. Now i am very afraid to click on things because i may get sued. That means when i go online, i get massive panic attacks. When i go outside and see lights that flash(esp red ones) i get post traumatic stress flashbacks and have to run back inside. If in my panic, i hurt anoyone, it is the fault of The North Country Gazette.

Hey north country gazette, do you see how easy it is to go overboard??? If you can do it, why can’t we?

Oh, and you have to pay my rather expensive medical and legal bills also!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: sue me

Yep, I was just there too. The threats at the bottom of the page are making me feel ill also and I might feel the need to sue.

This is just as ridiculous as the bowl of Halloween candy that is left on a porch, with a note to just take one – but in this case if you take more than one, the homeowner jumps out and beats a kid with a baseball bat.

Really, if you require a subscription, then lock up your content.

ComputerAddict (profile) says:

Hate to be the one to throw a wrench in that engine...

Hate to be the one to throw a wrench in that engine… but i believe all Verizon wireless phones would be on DHCP for IP Addresses along with probably 97% of Road Runner and Frontier customers… Boy I hope your neighbor didn’t visit their site before that last power outage and the modems grabbing new IPs.

Then again if the newspaper loses power they’ll probably lose all those IP’s its been collecting since their web programmer probably hasn’t figured out how to write the data to a file quite yet.

Chris says:

Re: Hate to be the one to throw a wrench in that engine...

Just an FYI… most DHCP servers keep a log of what MAC Address was given which DHCP address.

So if you say 127.0.0.1 (this is an example so I’m using one that points back to your own PC.. I know this one is not DHCP) at Oct 12th at 5:04pm this is useful info.

Each MAC address is a network card address… and is unique to that particular network card… in that MAC addy is actually enough info to tell what make and manufacturer the network card is… and it’s unique.

So once you have an IP address & Day/Time you can get the MAC addy… that you can then look in the arp tables to see if that MAC address is in use. Which if the MAC Addy is in use you can then trace it to a switch, blade, and port on the network gear… which then you should have a cut sheet pointing to where the wire in that switch is patched to which home.

Now… you CAN manually edit you MAC address every time you log in… but most people don’t.

I’m not saying this because I’m trying to point out you don’t know all this and that I’m somehow smarter than you… it’s kinda what I do for a living.. so I HAVE to know it… it doesn’t make me a better person… what I am trying to say is.. “dude be careful… you are more traceable than you think…”

Anyway… be safe man.

adam says:

Re: Hate to be the one to throw a wrench in that engine...

Having a dynamic IP doesn’t give you anonymity, or even plausible deniability. Your ISP knows when which user had which IP address. If the newspaper sued they would request the IP logs from the ISP and then go after whoever had that IP at the moment they accessed the site.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: "Fair Use is not applicable" - oh really?

According to http://encyclopediadramatica.com/June_Maxam, she has also stated: “This article is copyright protected and Fair Use is not applicable” Oh dear, oh dear, ohdear.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh. I knew this site sounded familiar. We wrote about them a few years back over their crazy fair use claims:

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20061024/113745.shtml

She then threatened the people who pointed out the problems with her fair use statement by saying they were “practicing law without a license.”

ofb2632 (profile) says:

Re: Re: "Fair Use is not applicable" - oh really?

Mike,

Look at what has happened over the last 2 years concerning ‘fair use’ and how things are being warped. Do you honestly think there is not a judge out there that won’t agree with her now? I am absolutely sure she has a good shot with her outrageous argument if she gets a right leaning judge.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: "Fair Use is not applicable" - oh really?

They are really totally crazy on that site. After a few minutes of browsing I discovered:

– They still have a letter up saying the site is free and begging for donations, despite their warnings

– When you DO go to their “sign up” page, there is no registration form at all or even a set price. Just a Paypal payment form with a box to ender how much you are sending (this despite the fact that two tiered subscription prices are listed on the ad). I suppose you are supposed to just send them money and wait for them to contact you.

(additionally, the ad linking to that paypal page is pushing the “NCG Daily Digest” email newsletter. I don’t see anything on the site explaining how to sign up to view articles on the site itself.)

– Their TOS goes on about registering with “AccessEach” to view the site – even though as far as I can tell no such registration system exists anywhere, and I have no idea what AccessEach is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Please don't push this button again

This reminds me of a custom app I encountered at a place I used to work at. It had some button in the app that if you pushed it it said. “You do not have proper permissions to use this feature. Your identity has been recorded by management.” (no it wasn’t a joke) So after that I pressed the button every chance I got. Sadly nothing was going to come of it, the guy who wrote the app got canned which is one of the reasons I was working there. (coincidently to help replace said app).

PeteProdge (profile) says:

She's done time in jail!

It gets even funnier when you read all about the history of North Country Gazzette owner June Maxam

She’s done time in the slammer, back in 2000, for harrassing people!

“June Maxam, a longtime newspaper publisher, was convicted in December 2000 of harassing her neighbors, and was sentenced to 9-1/2 months in jail. She has filed numerous appeals in the case — citing jury and evidence tampering — and has long held that her arrest and conviction were in retaliation for stories she published that criticized local officials in and around Chestertown, N.Y.”

Source: http://rcfp.org/news/2003/1223jmaxam.html

Joe says:

Re: She's done time in jail!

As dumb as she may be I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if she did harass her neighbors and at the same time was not provably guilty of a crime. The system is rigged and the only way they get convictions is because of a flawed system. Things like evidence/jury tampering isn’t hard to believe nor are naive jurors. If you get accused of something chances are you will be hauled off to jail bye-bye goes any chances of you being put back in society even if you are innocent. Guilt or innocence has little to do with it. It is wishful thinking that you could get a fair trial. Reality is the system just persecutes people.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

This just gets better… has anyone looked at their “Support This Site” plea?

We present the news and reports to you at no charge but we must ask for your help and financial support to allow us to continue to keep the website free, to pay the costs of maintaining the website and the expenses of gathering the news and reporting it to you.

http://www.northcountrygazette.org/support-this-site/

So – claim you do it for free, ask for donations, and ALSO claim it isn’t free?

porkster says:

I only read part of an article

I only read part of an article, does this mean I can have another half of an article? After all I didn’t get to the bottom to read the disclaimer.

Besides it’s entrapment. The snippets on the home page invite you to (Read more…) then when you do, bing they’ve got you.

Oh no, I’ve now read 3 articles, I’ll be hiding under the bed till the FEDs come for me…

TheOldFart (profile) says:

It's struggling

I got a couple of broken socket failures and one timeout before I got to the site.

I read three stories, but my memory is so short I forgot the first two by the time I read the third one. Does that count as only consuming one story or am I going to be arrested along with the rest of you filthy criminals?

I’ll just wait right over here on the Group W bench.

Paul L (profile) says:

Interesting snippit

I found an interesting snippet of text when you click on the “Support this site” link.

“We present the news and reports to you at no charge but we must ask for your help and financial support to allow us to continue to keep the website free, to pay the costs of maintaining the website and the expenses of gathering the news and reporting it to you.”

So when you click the link to support them, they are then telling you the site is free and they provide access at no charge.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: images blocked

Hey Mike, whatever you’re using to host images, websense (blindly installed by our corporate IT department here) has deemed worthy of being blocked.

Can’t read any of them – neither can any of the thousands of employees here.

Ugh. We had been using Flickr, but the terms of service there were questionable, so we moved over to Imgur, which has become quite popular these days. I’m surprise Websense would block Imgur.

Anyway, we’re still working on a better solution, but that’s annoying.

out_of_the_blue says:

Why aren't you touting them for "monetizing" news aggregation?

I like this one, supports my beliefs:
“ERIE COUNTY??An Erie County businessman who allegedly lied on company payroll records to receive a reduced workers? compensation premium is under arrest.”

And I can believe that the publisher was jailed for reporting on county officials, too, from the number of “muckraking” articles that are something of a novelty these days. Two pedophiles, a nurse seeking a hit, State Senator indicted, many more. And there are numerous ads to pay for it all (only five of the ad hosts are in my hosts file).

So except for the one (perhaps) mistake, looks to me like you should be promoting its “business model”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why aren't you touting them for "monetizing" news aggregation?

And I can believe that the publisher was jailed for reporting on county officials, too, from the number of “muckraking” articles that are something of a novelty these days

Riiight. Reposting articles from elsewhere pretending they are own is nothing to be jailed over, unless you are a nutty conspiracy theory lover.

Anonymous Coward says:

Also funny that they post “COPYRIGHT 2010 – NORTH COUNTRY GAZETTE All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written permission of the publisher.” just below the bookmark and share link. They also allow RSS feeds from their website. Which means you can read it from RSS without actually going to the site. How do they expect to get paid for that? What morons! They can’t be serious!

jsl4980 (profile) says:

Considering the readers it probably works

I have quite a few relatives in the area that the North Country Gazette serves, and most of the publication’s audience doesn’t have a great understanding of computers, the internet, or any applicable laws. I’m guessing that this warning may be enough to scare a few people away from their site. But it probably won’t do anything to get more people to give them money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Haha they changed their message…

“A subscription is needed for your future access to The North Country Gazette. To subscribe, see the ad to the right. You are entitled to read only one article for free. If you wish to read more, a subscription is required. Please don’t be dishonest, don’t abuse the privilege”

Sounds less threatening now πŸ™

Craig (profile) says:

They claim full copyright but...

“COPYRIGHT 2010 – NORTH COUNTRY GAZETTE All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written permission of the publisher.” – so before I click on the three links that they provide to add the post to Delicious, Meneame and Digg, I have to get their express written permission?
I SO CONFOOSED!

By the way, I’ve been ‘reading’ as many articles I can before boredom hits OH WAIT…boredom has arrived. πŸ™‚

Lisae Boucher (profile) says:

Streisand effect?

This site is now falling for the Streisant effect and considering the type of site that it is, it might just be exactly what they wanted! HOAX! Don’t fall for it! Just wait until they actually start to take legal steps, then report about it. Because now, you’re just helping the site to become more popular.

I really think TechDirt has just fallen for some hoax… GREAT! πŸ™‚

RandomGuy (profile) says:

Re: Streisand effect?

It’s no hoax, Maxam really is that idiodic.

Although I must admit I did increase her hits a tad, because after reading this article I just had to read multiple pages. Even if I had to paste the URL in myself, seeing as links from Techdirt land on a 403 page.

In other news today, I need something far more productive to spend my time doing.

Gregg L. DesElms (profile) says:

Oy... this should all not be taken so seriously

Of course the story needed to be told, and so thanks, Mike, for so doing. And you’re right about how silly it is, and how the paper would likely not have a foot on which to stand in court.

But this little “newspaper” is a joke… and I don’t mean just for its silly notices and threats.

It’s an ultra-conservative rag that’s not only so amateurish as a rag, but is also so disconnected from how the Internet works, that’s it’s not even worth reading or even taking seriously as a “publication.”

It’s a joke. Just ignore it.

Philly Phil says:

Baited Trap?

This story remains me of Tricker Treating with the house that puts out the bucket of candy with a sign that says, “Please take two.” Is it “two for each hand” or “two at a time” or “Please take two and if you take more than two, we are going to press charges for petty theft?”

Moreover, a judge recently ruled in a California case (where the Facebook User Policy was violated in a successful attempt to harass a teenage girl) that there must be proof that the a site’s user agreement was actually read. And, simply checking the “I agree” box doesn’t count. Any judge is going to rule if you want people to pay for your product, you shouldn’t give it out for free.

Just like the people who put the bucket on the porch for tricker-treating, these guys have to expect that not everyone is going to comply with their request.

PPNSteve (profile) says:

Forbidden

You don’t have permission to access / on this server.

Additionally, a 403 Forbidden error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.
Apache/2.0.63 (Unix) mod_ssl/2.0.63 OpenSSL/0.9.8e-fips-rhel5 FrontPage/5.0.2.2635 mod_bwlimited/1.4 mod_auth_passthrough/2.1 Server at http://www.northcountrygazette.org Port 80

WOW, such a nice and well maintained site.

gregh3285 says:

Geesh

The honest, good, upstanding person in me feels truly sorry that this woman must live her life in such a sad state. To go through life being bitter and mean-spirited is truly sad. My hope is that through this, somehow, she can realize that a) mean people suck and b) I’ve become a mean person.

Until that time:
$ for i in {1..100000}; do wget -r –tries=10 http://www.northcountrygazette.org/; done

Sammy the Seal says:

Douchebags Inc

Forbidden

You don’t have permission to access / on this server.

Additionally, a 403 Forbidden error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.
Apache/2.0.63 (Unix) mod_ssl/2.0.63 OpenSSL/0.9.8e-fips-rhel5 FrontPage/5.0.2.2635 mod_bwlimited/1.4 mod_auth_passthrough/2.1 Server at http://www.northcountrygazette.org Port 80

Drea (profile) says:

This is brilliant! I know I’m a year behind but I’ve just been threatened by June Maxam. She claims she’s ‘investigating’ a story about Lennox, a dog seized by Belfast City Council under BSL laws. All she’s doing is regurgitating info and opinions and passing them off as investigating! Oh and apparently the NCG is known the world over which is why ‘they’ asked her to do this. I have no idea who ‘they’ is and didn’t want to ask her in case she charged me for the information!

Drea (profile) says:

Re: Threatened, two days ago ...

Oh she’s back is she? She de-activated her Facebook page for a while after getting a lot of stick on a page about a dog taken under BSL. She was asked by the dog’s owners not to use anything because she had such a lot of bad press. She then went on to threaten ‘you people’ for badmouthing her.

She just trawls the internet and copies, word for word, what other sites post on their pages.

For a journo you’d think she’d know the difference between ‘libel’ and ‘liable’…says a lot about her really!

Drea (profile) says:

Bless, she really is a little odd, isn’t she? She doesn’t get it that in the UK, the majority of online news site let you read their articles for FREE!

“It is with regret that due to excessive usage of The North Country Gazette website which has caused numerous outages and extra costs as well abusive messages received by people who seem to believe that they should have unlimited free access and that we should work for nothing, certain articles including our extensive work on the Lennox case will now be available to subscribers only.

This saddens us because it was our intent and still is to bring public awareness to the case as well as to the highly discriminatory breed specific legislation and unfair laws that are killing dogs in the United Kingdomand Northern Ireland simply because of the way they look. We had hoped that our efforts and work would help free Lennox and send him home where he belongs with his family and his bestest friend, little Brooke.

In the past several days since we asked for donations to help defray the expenses of maintaining the website, only one person contributed and that person, known to us, was involved in conducting a ChipIn themselves, trying to raise money to bring their own dog home. We doubled their contribution to us and returned it to them, to help free their family pet.

We were certainly willing to continue with our coverage of the cases and allowing free access if some contributions had been forthcoming to help with the costs. Sadly, there weren?t any. Instead, people berated us and in essence told us it was our DUTY and OBLIGATION to make the news available to them for nothing. Some of the comments became so abusive, it became necessary to disable the comment feature.

One abusive message in particular bothered us. The woman accused us of ?getting rich? from Lennox. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have incurred large expenses in opening our website to everyone instead of subscribers only, and donating our time and resources in covering the Lennox case and those of the other dogs and related issues. She seems to have a warped perception about the world and doesn?t think that the media should get paid for reporting the news. Apparently she thinks the media is an arm of the government, subsidized by the government. This isn?t Pravada. This is the United States of Americ.

Its upsetting when there?s so much traffic from people who demand free access that it takes down the website for everyone and even I can?t access my account to post new articles or make administrative changes. Even the State of New York apparently believes that The North Country Gazette owes them free access and that they should have unlimited access at anytime they wish. It?s not gonna happen without a subscription or supporting advertising.

Therefore, the only solution is to limit the access to stop the excessive costs and control the traffic.

My heart goes out to the dogs?Lennox, Simba, Venus and the others who have been and are being victimized and especially their families. I sincerely hope that these dogs and the others who have not been so fortunate to have had media coverage, don?t have access to social media. Could I do it for them I would. I have tried to help those that I could. I?m extremely sorry that some individuals think big profits were realized or that our efforts weren?t sincere. 11-7-11″

CharonPDX says:

And it only took two years...

Looks like they STILL have their paywall up (in fact, they don’t even allow referred connections in.)

But every article has a tag at the bottom:

The North Country Gazette needs your help to continue. Without your financial support, the website will not be able to continue after Jan. 1. To subscribe, see the ads to the right of this article. If you wish to donate, leave a tip in the tip jar at the site. New advertisers are always welcome. Contact NCG at news@northcountrygazette.org for more information. Thank you.

eileen says:

North country gazette crazy lady

I had a run in with this old bag today I accidentally came across an article she wrote about a BSC case in KS. I asked a simple question and she responded soooooo rudely! I was honestly so baffled that I had to see if this was an isolated incident. Apparently she is notorious for threatening to sue people and even did jail time for false harassment accusations. There are many many posts about this crazy woman. Her site needs to be taken down.

https://onclickads.net/?zoneid=191098&pbk2=0148e29c3d2fe4d254e7e5d192214c3a6173049272710981917&r=%2Foc%2Fhan%2Ftomb

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