GateHouse sues NYT Co. over local websites
GateHouse Media Inc., the owner of 125 local newspapers across Massachusetts, sued the Boston Globe’s parent today for linking to GateHouse articles on the Globe's new local websites.
In a lawsuit filed in US District Court in Massachusetts, GateHouse argued that the New York Times Co. violated copyright law by copying "verbatim" headlines and the first sentence from articles in the Newton Tab, Daily News Tribune of Waltham and other GateHouse papers on the Globe's own websites, along with links to the full articles.
The suit raises critical legal issues about what type of linking is permitted on the Internet. Many blogs and media sites routinely post links to stories by other media. Indeed, GateHouse has published links to Globe stories in the past.
And Google Inc., the Internet powerhouse, scours thousands of news sites around the world for headlines and posts links to the stories.
In a statement, New York Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said the company is simply doing what hundreds of other news sites already do -- aggregate headlines and snippets of relevant stories published elsewhere on the Web -- and believed GateHouse's lawsuit was without merit.
"Far from being illegal or improper, this practice of linking to sites is common and is familiar to anyone who has searched the Web," Mathis said. "It is fair and benefits both Web users and the originating site."
GateHouse representatives could not be immediately be reached for comment.
In the lawsuit, the chain said the new Globe sites compete directly with its own "Wicked Local" websites. In November, the Globe’s online arm, Boston.com, launched the first in a series of experimental “hyper-local” sites in Newton, which feature a variety of local news and information, including a calendar of local events, a user-created encyclopedia of information, and real estate listings, focused on a particular community. It has since launched similar sites in Needham and Waltham and announced plans to eventually serve all of Greater Boston.
The centerpiece of the new local sites is a round-up of articles from the Globe, GateHouse, blogs and other online sources for each area. On any given day, GateHouse said in the suit, Boston.com’s Newton site features snippets of between 10 and 30 GateHouse items. And GateHouse complained that Boston.com made the situation worse by attributing the articles to the Newton Tab and other GateHouse sources -- giving readers the "false impression" that GateHouse endorsed the practice -- and providing "deep links" directly to the articles, bypassing the GateHouse papers' home page.
GateHouse, based in Fairport, NY, said it sent letters to the Globe on Nov. 26 and Dec. 2 demanding the company stop posting GateHouse , but did not receive a response. According to the Globe's records, however, the company responded Nov. 26.
In addition, GateHouse said it tried to block computers coming from Boston.com’s Internet addresses from “scraping” its website for articles, but that the New York Times Co. circumvented the security measures and continued to post GateHouse content. In addition to copyright infringement, GateHouse also accused the New York Times Co. of unfair competition, false advertising, trademark dilution, unfair business practices and other misconduct.
GateHouse said it is seeking a court order blocking the New York Times Co. from using its articles or trademarks. It also hopes to receive compensation, punitive damages and legal fees.
(By Todd Wallack, Globe staff)