New York Times, GateHouse blink on links

January 26, 2009

The New York Times and GateHouse Media arrived at a general understanding on Monday of how Web links work. That’s good timing because they were supposed to go to trial over it today. Here’s the brief back story, courtesy of The Associated Press:

GateHouse sued the Times, the parent company of The Boston Globe and its Web Site, last month, claiming the Globe’s new community websites use GateHouse’s newspaper headlines and lead sentences without permission.

Here’s what the Boston Herald said:

The Times agreed to disable the computer tool it used to automatically copy and display GateHouse headlines and lead sentences on’s recently launched “Your Town” Web sites. Meanwhile, GateHouse will implement a “technological solution” to prevent from copying its content. GateHouse has set up such a barrier in November that kept from “scraping” Wicked Local sites, but the “electronic security measure” was quickly circumvented, according to GateHouse’s original civil complaint.

Aside from the wider (and unanswered) question of where the borderline is between polite linking and plain old stealing, it was worth getting a few laughs from watching two “old” media companies duke it out over whether links are a form of admiration or just plain theft. Maybe the real answer can be settled in an old-school-style gentleman’s agreement: You know when too much is too much.

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