Dumb has a new name: GateHouse Media sues the NY Times Company over links

GateHouse Media, owner of 125 small local newspapers in Massachusetts, has sued the New York Times Company for linking to articles on Gatehouse web properties.

GateHouse argues that The New York Times Co, through the Boston Globe (Boston.com) violated copyright law by copying headlines and the first sentence from articles in the Newton Tab, Daily News Tribune of Waltham, and other GateHouse papers. GateHouse also claims illegal use of trademarks as Boston.com also named the papers when linking to them.

NY Times Company spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said that the company is simply doing what many other news sites already do – aggregating headlines and snippets of relevant stories published elsewhere on the Web – and that it believed GateHouse’s lawsuit was without merit according to Boston.com.

In case you missed the opening, let me repeat it: the New York Times Company is being sued for linking to another site, and quoting a very small amount of text when doing so, and for naming the site it was linking to.

Are these people completely insane?

The real crux of the matter would appear to be more related to competition: Gatehouse runs sites that they themselves describe as being “hyper-local” and the Boston Globe has recently started launching similar sites; although with the latter the Globe aggregates external content from blogs and other news sources, including competitors. Gatehouse argues that the direct linking to articles on their sites prevents users from hitting the front page, but it presumes, dare I say wrongly that the Globe not linking to content would result in more traffic to their front page, when the real result would be more likely a drop in traffic for the site as a whole, with little discernible difference to traffic to the front page.

In the unlikely event that this action is successful, the entire premise of the link economy could be in danger. It is standard practice now even with media sites that linking out is good, and a wave of new media companies have been built on this premise. Even Google would not be immune, with Google News offering a similar, be it automated version of what The Globe is offering in this instance.

The ultimate irony of course is in the Gatehouse court submission, which is scattered with 2.0 words: the company somehow thinks it’s a serious player in the space, yet at the same time is seeking to sue someone else for actually linking to their content. Dumb has a new name.

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