UPDATE: GateHouse and NYT Settle Web Links Case Before Trial


UPDATE: The Boston Globe reports Monday, “The New York Times Co. and GateHouse Media Inc. this morning were set to notify a federal judge they had settled their copyright and trademark infringement case out of court. The case, which had been scheduled to go to trial this week, had been widely watched in the media and technology worlds.

“Details of the agreement were not immediately available.On one side is GateHouse Media, one of the nation’s largest publishers of community newspapers. On the other is The New York Times Co., the parent company of The Boston Globe and its Boston.com Web site.”

Earlier AP story follows.
The two publishers will square off in federal court this week in a case that is being closely watched by journalists, bloggers and Internet users.

GateHouse filed a copyright infringement lawsuit last month, claiming that the Globe’s new community Web sites use online material from GateHouse without permission.

GateHouse claims Boston.com violates copyright and trademark laws by taking GateHouse’s newspaper headlines and lead sentences published on its “Wicked Local” Web sites. GateHouse alleges that Boston.com offers links that send readers directly to “Wicked Local” stories ? bypassing ads posted on home pages that help fund its operation and creating confusion on the source of the original reporting.

Last fall, Boston.com launched three “Your Town” community Web sites that cover the cities of Newton, Waltham and Needham. The Globe said that the three towns were the first in a series of more than 100 “hyperlocal” Web sites it plans.

In its lawsuit, GateHouse claims that Boston.com is building community-oriented sites that rely on the work of GateHouse reporters.

News organizations and bloggers say the case could have far-reaching implications for determining how much content one news organization or Web site can use from another.

“It’s certainly being followed within the journalism community, but this is huge in new media and blogging because God help us if a judge or a jury starts to lay down rules as to what constitutes acceptable linking practices and what isn’t,” said Dan Kennedy, an assistant journalism professor at Northeastern University who has been blogging about the case on Media Nation.

Gregory Reibman, the editor-in-chief of the metro unit of GateHouse Media New England, said in an affidavit that many online readers only read headlines and lead sentences and do not click through to the full stories. He said that when readers do click through from the “Your Town” links, they bypass the ads on Wicked Local’s home pages.

“If the Boston Globe wants to compete with us in Newton and the other communities we serve, they should approach it fairly,” Reibman said in the affidavit. “They should hire and pay their own journalists. They should generate their own original content and nurture their own contacts within the community.”

Ira Levy, an attorney for The New York Times Co., declined comment on the case before trial. Anthony Scibelli, an attorney for GateHouse Media, also declined comment.

Catherine Mathis, a spokeswoman for The New York Times Co., declined comment on Friday, but said earlier that the company believes GateHouse’s claims are “without merit.”

“Boston.com’s local pages, like hundreds of other news sites, aggregate headlines and snippets of relevant stories published on the Web. They link back to the originating site where the interested user can read the entire article,” Mathis said in a statement on Dec. 22.

“Far from being illegal or improper, this practice of linking to sites is common and is familiar to anyone who has searched the Web. It is fair and benefits both Web users and the originating site.”

Bill Mitchell, director of Poynter Online, said the case is about more than just linking.

“I think it’s a very tricky, interesting issue because on the one hand if I were in GateHouse’s shoes, I’d feel well-served by links from the bigger Boston.com. On the other hand, the extent to which users find themselves sufficiently satisfied just by looking at the Globe hyper local site, that really undercuts what GateHouse is trying to do,” Mitchell said.

GateHouse, based in Fairport, N.Y., owns 97 daily newspapers, 400 other publications and 260 related Web sites reaching more than 10 million people in 21 states. Its Massachusetts publications include The Patriot Ledger, The Enterprise, the Newton TAB and the Daily News Tribune of Waltham.

The trial is scheduled to start Monday in U.S. District Court.

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