New York Times sued over Boston.com's linking practice

At issue is the Times-owned Boston.com's use of local newspapers' headlines and first sentences with links to the original articles.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
3 min read
Updated 12:43 p.m. PST with GateHouse comment in e-mail sent to staff, as well as comment from Chicago Reader Web editor.

A publisher of mostly small, local newspapers has sued the New York Times Co. over its aggregation of news headlines on Boston.com, challenging the practice many sites use of linking to other sources.


In its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts on Monday, Fairport, N.Y.-based GateHouse Media, which publishes more than 100 papers in Massachusetts, accuses the Times of violating copyright by allowing its Boston Globe online unit to copy verbatim the headlines and first sentences from articles published on sites owned by GateHouse, including the Newton Tab.

The links, as seen on Boston.com's Newton site for instance, lead to the original articles on the GateHouse-owned sites, which display advertising. However the lawsuit claims GateHouse is losing advertising revenue as a result of the linking because readers don't see the ads on the GateHouse site's home page.

The linking also confuses readers, leading them to believe that GateHouse endorses the linking practice, according to the lawsuit.

Catherine Mathis, senior vice president of corporate communications at the New York Times, said the linking practice is commonly used around the Web and that 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," she wrote in a statement.

"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 wrote. "It is fair and benefits both Web users and the originating site."

In an e-mail sent to GateHouse staff, an executive said GateHouse had taken the legal action after being unable to resolve the matter informally.

"GateHouse has taken this step to enforce its rights under the law and protect the integrity of its trademarks and original news content, in furtherance of its ability to provide hyper-local news coverage to its newspaper readers and website viewers in the communities throughout the greater Boston region which it has served over many years," wrote Kirk Davis, president of GateHouse Media New England. "As a matter of policy, I won't be commenting further on this matter. Instead, it is appropriate that we let this matter take its natural legal course."

Google got heat a few years ago for its Google News aggregation of headlines and summaries and settled a copyright lawsuit with Agence France-Presse last year. Google also is paying the Associated Press to use its content on Google News.

Meanwhile, a weekly publication in Chicago, The Chicago Reader, has pointed the finger at The Huffington Post for re-posting an entire concert preview.

In an e-mail sent to CNET News on Tuesday, Chicago Reader Web Editor Whet Moser wrote that the Huffington Post had printed multiple concert previews "in full from multiple publications over the course of a couple months."

Huffington Post co-founder Jonah Peretti defended the site's aggregation practice to Wired News and said the complete article re-printing was a mistake.