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Media sues media over linking on Web sites

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  1. Content Restrictions
A battle over Web site links has landed two media companies in court. GateHouse Media, which owns several hundred newspapers…

A battle over Web site links has landed two media companies in court.

GateHouse Media, which owns several hundred newspapers and Web sites, filed a lawsuit last month in federal court in Massachusetts against The New York Times Co. alleging copyright infringement.

The suit stems from a Boston.com local news site in Newton, Mass. that aggregates news content from area blogs and newspapers. The site displays the headlines and ledes of local stories, along with links to the original content. Boston.com, owned by The New York Times Co., launched the site last month as the first in a series of sites focusing on the Boston region, according to Boston.com.

GateHouse media owns three Newton-area news sources that Boston.com has culled material from – a free weekly newspaper called the Newton TAB, a daily newspaper, The Daily News Tribune, and the online version that publishes stories from both — a Web site known as Wicked Local.

According to the complaint, GateHouse claims that Boston.com is using material from Wicked Local without its permission, thus violating copyright law. Additionally, GateHouse alleges that Boston.com’s “deep links” to the original stories, which bypass the Wicked Local home page, further violates its copyright in the material by confusing readers about where the content comes from.

“I have been in the news business my entire adult life and I believe competition in journalism is a good thing, and I welcome it,” Greg Reibman, editor of the Newton Tab and 11 other GateHouse publications, said in a court affidavit and on the Wicked Local Web site. “If the Boston Globe wants to compete with us in Newton and the other communities we serve, they should approach it fairly. They should hire and pay their own journalists. They should generate their own original content and nurture their own contacts within the community.”

New York Times Co. spokeswoman Catherine Mathis defended the site in a statement on Boston.com.

“Far from being illegal or improper, this practice of linking to sites is common and is familiar to anyone who has searched the Web,” Mathis said. “It is fair and benefits both Web users and the originating site.”

There will be a hearing in the case at the end of January.