GateHouse Media New England filed a lawsuit last week claiming The Boston Globe’s new community Web sites violate copyright and trademark laws by lifting content from GateHouse sites without permission.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Boston federal court against Globe parent The New York Times Co., focuses on the “Your Town: Newton” site that the Globe launched through its Boston.com Web site last month. Boston.com has also added similar sites to serve the communities of Needham and Waltham in recent days.
GateHouse, the parent company of The Patriot Ledger, The Enterprise, MetroWest Daily News and dozens of other newspapers and web sites in the state, alleges that the Times Co. is building community-oriented sites that duplicate GateHouse’s “Wicked Local” sites while relying on the work of GateHouse journalists.
GateHouse filed a request with the suit asking a judge to block Boston.com from reproducing GateHouse’s content.
The “Your Town” sites provide news headlines and lead sentences for several news stories each day. Many of the headlines and lead sentences link directly to stories on GateHouse Media sites, although others rely on content generated by the Globe or local blogs.
Greg Reibman, the editor-in-chief of GateHouse Media New England’s metro unit, 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.
In the affidavit, Reibman said Boston.com is avoiding paying journalists to cover local events by copying content from GateHouse’s Wicked Local sites, which are filled with news items from GateHouse journalists.
“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.”
GateHouse sent a cease and desist letter to the Globe soon after the “Your Town: Newton” site became active last month. When that didn’t stop the posting of GateHouse material, GateHouse implemented electronic security measures to prevent users with a certain Boston.com address from scraping content off GateHouse’s Web sites. Boston.com, GateHouse alleges, intentionally circumvented those measures.
GateHouse publishes its news and photos on the Web through a Creative Commons license that allows users of Wicked Local to copy and distribute the copyrighted material – as long as it’s not for commercial use.