Every so often I get mad ... REALLY mad ... when something pops up on my daily news search via the internet.
Today was one of those days. Believe it or not, GateHouse Media, the corporate owners of the Waynesville Daily Guide, Rolla Daily News and Camden Lake Sun Leader, are actually suing the New York Times Corporation for linking to GateHouse Media news sites.
I'm glad I don't have to try to defend this lawsuit as a reporter employed by GateHouse Media. It's going to get really, really embarrassing for a small newspaper company, and their employees are going to be ridiculed all over the newspaper business.
Apparently the corporate owners of GateHouse Media have no idea what weblinks are, why they are valuable, or why driving traffic to a site is a good thing. Are there really people running corporations in the United States who understand so little about the Internet and how it works? Do these guys in the corporate headquarters have computers at their homes or use e-mail? Maybe now I understand why people at the Waynesville Daily Guide have to suffer with constantly crashing computers that are a decade old (no, I'm **NOT** kidding -- there are reasons I bought and used my own equipment whenever possible while working at the Daily Guide).
This lawsuit deserves to get laughed out of court and treated in the same category as Adam the Apple Seller suing Sally the Shopper because Sally told other people where to find Adam's Apple Store on the web by posting a weblink.
Here is the GateHouse Media version of the story:http://www.wickedlocal.com/bedford/news/x946486577/GateHouse-Media-sues-New-York-Times-Co-over-copyright-issues
And here is an Associated Press version:http://www.crainsnewyork.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081223/FREE/812239991/1040
It's easy to laugh, but there are **REALLY** serious issues here. If GateHouse wins its lawsuit because some black-robed and white-haired judge in a courtroom who doesn't undestand the internet buys their arguments, all those links that various websites such as this one provide to various news media organs will probably be illegal without the consent of the website owners being linked to. That could cause **MAJOR** disruptions to the practices of links on the internet as we now know it.
The saving grace of this is that even with the financial problems of the newspaper industry, the New York Times Corporation still can afford the best lawyers in the United States, has more than enough media muscle to effectively communicate its message to the public, and will probably end up making GateHouse look like a bunch of hillbilly idiots who don't understand the internet.
(Fair disclosure -- I've been a subscriber to the New York Times premium content web features for years before I ever went to work at the Waynesville Daily Guide, and I think the New York Times has made better use of the internet than virtually any other newspaper out there. I totally disagree with their liberal bias, but they do an excellent job providing massive amounts of content via the internet and making it easy to use and to research.)
The "blogosphere" is already ripping into this lawsuit. Here are some examples (done by links which may someday be illegal):
Media resorts to cannibalism for survivalhttp://www.marketingshift.com/2008/12/media-resorts-cannibalism-survival.cfm
Website Sues NY Times For Linking To Ithttp://www.techdirt.com/articles/20081222/1835393201.shtml
Dying newspapers suing each other for content thefthttp://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/12/dying-newspapers-suing-each-other-for-content-theft
Quoting from the TechDirt article, which contains a copy of the court documents:
"Basically, the big complaint is that Boston.com (which is owned by the NY Times) has a local section, where it links to GateHouse publications. It does so in ways that are clearly
fair use. It includes the headline and the very first sentence
of the GateHouse articles, with a link to the full version. This is driving traffic
to GateHouse's publications and clearly not taking anything away from GateHouse. But GateHouse claims this is copyright infringement. Furthermore, GateHouse claims that there is trademark infringement because Boston.com accurately
shows where the content originally is from and tells you what site the link goes to. In other words, it's helping to promote
GateHouse's properties. GateHouse, instead, claims this is blatant trademark infringement. Even more ridiculously, GateHouse claims that this effort by Boston.com, which helps get it more attention
and drive more traffic
to its properties is somehow unfair competition. I only wish
we had competition like that."
The argument GateHouse is making is that lots of people just read the headlines on the news aggregator site run by Boston.com, which are links to various media outlets in suburban Boston including newspapers owned by GateHouse Media, and don't click through to the stories and therefore don't see the ads on the stories. Yes, but some people who want to read more than a headline **WILL** click through to read the story ... and how many of those people who read the Boston.com website would ever have even thought to read the local suburban newspaper without the help of that weblink?
Somebody please explain to me why GateHouse Media is suing people who are **HELPING** them gain more traffic. With a mentality like this, newspapers would never have moved from manual Underwoods to electric typewriters, let alone using computers and the internet.
Yes, this really is that stupid. And I'm glad I don't have to try to defend it as a GateHouse employee any longer.
FYI, I have absolutely no problem with anybody linking to the Pulaski County Daily News, and I hereby give blanket permission for links to anybody else who wants it, unless that permission is revoked via a future posting on the Pulaski County Daily News website.
Darrell Todd Maurina