Feeds

Washington Post and LA Times sue story stealer

Or 'Who cares about the words, what about the ad revenue?'

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Reducing security risks from open source software

The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post have begun legal action against Free Republic, a Republican-leaning Web site which re-posts their stories without permission. While the two papers cite their irritation with the site's infringement of their copyright, they also specify that it diverts readers and potential revenue away from their own Web sites.

Free Republic is run by a Web design house owner, Jim Robinson, who claims his use of the papers' articles is protected by both the US Constitution's First Amendment and by the 'fair use' doctrine of copyright law, which allows snippets of stories to be quoted.

Robinson vowed to do "whatever it takes" to win the case. "I will not back down," he said. His site, he claims, is paid for by donations and non-profit making, so his legal battle may well end up being funded by numerous organisations of the kind that will undoubtedly see the case as a battle between free-speech libertarians and the (to them) dodgy liberal establishment.

While the paranoid might be happy with that reason, it's unlikely to have figured highly in the minds of the papers' legal bods. But it begs the question of what it is they are getting so het up about. Certainly, Free Republic's readers, who get the chance to comment and argue online about published stories, aren't the sort who would visit the papers' own sites.

That said, there is a precedent. Last year, The Shetland Times successfully persuaded the Scottish courts to ban online publication The Shetland News from including ST stories within its own. SN's defence centred on the fact it wasn't publishing the stories, merely creating links from one site to the other. However, the successful prosecution hinged on the way SN displayed the linked stories in a frame within its own pages - in essence it was republishing them.

Interestingly, the National Union of Journalists, which, you'd have thought, would have been dead against the unauthorised (ie. unpaid) re-use of writers' work, isided with the SN on this one, according to ST MD Robert Wishart.

Of course, there's a difference between a publishing company ripping off another publishing company, and a amateur Web site doing the same. So if copyright per se isn't the deal, what about the financial aspect? Could it be advertisers, unsatisfied with the poor response to their banners, are moving away from traditional sellers of ad space, i.e. publications, to sites better able to deliver the volume of readers that will make Internet advertising - always a inexact science, unless you're in the smut business - pay.

For these new ad sites, look no further than the portals, currently one of the most vigorously-fought marketplaces in the Internet. No wonder, then, the likes of the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post will go to the extreme of suing an insignificant copyright infringer, if it will persuade advertisers not to walk. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!
Grim diversity numbers dumped alongside Facebook earnings
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.