GateHouse Scoffs at ‘N.Y. Times’ Counterclaim in Web Suit

By: Mark Fitzgerald

When GateHouse Media Inc. and The New York Times Co. square off in federal court next week, the key question will be whether a Times Co. Web site is improperly lifting local news content from GateHouse publications — or simply doing what GateHouse itself does.

GateHouse sued in December, claiming the Times Co.’s Boston.com has been copying and displaying verbatim on its “Your Town” Web sites for three Boston suburbs the headlines and lead sentences of news articles taken from GateHouse newspapers and its hyperlocal sites for those towns at its WickedLocal.com site.

In a counterclaim filed last Friday, the Times Co. alleges that GateHouse sites including WickedLocal.com and thebatavian.com have themselves lifted headlines and ledes from other news sources.

GateHouse responded with a strong statement reasserting its claim that the Times is engaging in copyright and trademark infringement as well as unfair competition by passing off GateHouse content as its own.

“Incredibly, The New York Times now claims that certain of GateHouse’s own practices somehow qualify as copyright infringement,” GateHouse said in a statement. “These in no way involve the predatory practice of copying a competitor’s content on a daily basis to be offered as a substitute product to consumers and advertisers in the very same market, piggybacking on the competitor’s resources.”

GateHouse President and COO Kirk Davis said in trying to equate its conduct with legitimate linking practices of onlilne journalism, “The New York Times’ counterclaims … threaten those established practices as well as fair competition in online journalism.”

“The simple reality is that The New York Times chose to disregard these principles with its serial copying and display of GateHouse’s original content on the boston.com “YourTown” websites, which it has turned around and offered to readers in the same towns served by GateHouse’s WickedLocal websites,” Davis said.

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