Link-love’s labours lost
Where’s the “link love” this Christmas? Days after the Huffington Post was accused of unfairly copying content, the New York Times has been sued by GateHouse Media for copyright infringement.
GateHouse, owner of 125 local newspapers, alleges that a web site of the NYT’s Boston Globe subsidiary has been posting headlines and news content online from Gatehouse’s local Massachusetts news.
The New York Times says the claims are without merit and linking to sites is common practice – Boston.com has been posting headlines and first sentences with links to the full stories at GateHouse’s wickedlocal.com.
The case may be the result of a territorial battle – the Boston Globe is developing a “hyper-local” service of creating web destinations for individual towns, and linking to news from other providers can help fill out the pages.
In the Huffington Post incident, the editor of the Chicago Reader complained of “Grand Theft HuffPo”, with concert reviews being reprinted wholesale. the Huffington Post said the reprinting was an editorial mistake and the usual practice was to link and send readers to the original site.
There is obviously a balance that needs to be struck in these cases. Linking is an established practice that is generally viewed positively – it drives traffic to other sites, and a lot of traffic in the case of a Huffington Post or Google News.
But sometimes sites have overstepped the mark and used links plus content to boost the editorial appearance of their own products.
There have been many complaints over the years but the 1996 Shetland Times v Shetland News case sticks in the memory.
The Shetland Times won an injunction against the Shetland News linking to its news pages in a remote Scottish islands spat that gained international attention. one editor called the other a “silly billy”, there were testy fax exchanges and the whole matter was eventually settled out of court, with the Shetland News giving due credit to any Times story mentioned on its website.
The New York Times and GateHouse may be larger organs and this is 2008, but the principles and press competitiveness remain the same.
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