News Organizations Sue Texas-based Web sites

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Several newspapers and The Associated Press filed suit Friday against the operator of a collection of Web sites, alleging “wholesale misappropriation” of their news content that infringes on their copyright.

The suit, filed in Houston federal court, names the Police News Publishing Co., Breck Porter and six affiliated Web sites as defendants.

Plaintiffs in addition to the AP include the Houston Chronicle, The Beaumont Enterprise, the San Antonio Express-News and its owner, The Hearst Corp., The Galveston County Daily News, The Brazosport Facts, The Baytown Sun and The Tribune of Bay City.

The AP and the newspapers seek a permanent injunction preventing the Police News and Porter from displaying news content produced by the newspapers and the wire service. The suit identifies Porter, of Galveston, as the editor of the various Web sites.

“Police News profits from its unauthorized taking of others’ intellectual property and has persisted in this business model despite repeated requests to stop,” said Jonathan Donnellan, attorney for the news organizations. “This free-riding must come to an end.”

The suit alleges that Porter has accessed the news content without authorization and posted it on his Web sites, where advertising appears. The content is then archived; the archiving, publication, distribution and display of the content all violate the news organizations’ copyright, the suit says.

Porter told the AP on Friday that he believed he had been operating his Web sites legally and giving proper credit to news stories that appeared on the sites.

“Whatever we have to do to comply with what’s legal, we’ll do that. We certainly don’t mean to be infringing on anyone,” he said. “I will do whatever I can to resolve this. If I have to shut my Web site down, I will.”

The news organizations said they made several attempts to reach out to Porter to stop the alleged misappropriation but that Porter failed to remove content he had already posted and continued to post more.

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