Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Boston Globe & GateHouse Settle LinkGate

A victory for GateHouse Media is a step backwards for the rest of the Internet.

The New York Times agreed to settle a lawsuit from GateHouse, which said that Boston.com (a unit of the Times) had infringed on GateHouse's copyright by automatically including headlines, excerpts and links to GateHouse content. Boston.com and GateHouse both offer localized town websites across Massachusetts.

Boston.com was not reprinting GateHouse content, merely putting pointers to the relevant GateHouse website.

But because of the fierce hyperlocal competition between the two, GateHouse decided to sue.

In getting the settlement from the Times, GateHouse has won this battle.

However, it's a pyhric victory for GateHouse and the rest of the social media world.

The reason: as blogger, author and journalism professor Jeff Jarvis has said on his excellent BuzzMachine blog: Media organizations will need to focus on what they "do best and link to the rest (that) will be a foundation of the future architecture of news. This is a necessity of efficiency – no one can afford to waste resources on commodity news – but also a necessity of the link economy, for it is through others’ links that original journalism will get attention and audience and the opportunity for monetization through advertising. Linking to journalism at its source - rather than matching it or rewriting it, as we have done - will become an ethic, a moral imperative of the new journalism.

GateHouse could easily find itself needing to link to content from other sources -- which would be within their rights to complain about infingement from GateHouse.

The other thing that's ironic is that most organizations are trying to incr ease the number of inbound links to their site to drive traffic. Those links from Boston.com might have been a source of traffic to GateHouse websites.

As for the Times, its spokesperson made it clear that this agreement with GateHouse did not set a new policy for Times.com properties. Seems as if, with all its current cash-flow problems, the Times at least "gets it."

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