December 2008 - Posts

The New York Times is being sued by GateHouse Media, a publisher of mostly small, local newspapers, for copyright infringement over its linking and aggregation practices in its Boston Globe online unit.

In its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts on Monday, Fairport, N.Y.-based GateHouse Media, which publishes more than 100 papers in Massachusetts, accuses the Times of violating copyright by allowing its Boston Globe online unit to copy verbatim the headlines and first sentences from articles published on sites owned by GateHouse, including the Newton Tab.

The links, as seen on's Newton site for instance, lead to the original articles on the GateHouse-owned sites, which display advertising. However the lawsuit claims GateHouse is losing advertising revenue as a result of the linking because readers don't see the ads on the GateHouse site's home page.

The linking also confuses readers, leading them to believe that GateHouse endorses the linking practice, according to the lawsuit.


According Catherine Mathis, senior vice president of corporate communications at the New York Times, the linking practice is common around the web and that GateHouse Media's claim of copyright infringement does not have merit.

Many blogs and news sites like Digg aggregate hundreds and thousands of headlines from all around the web and republishes snippets of news with links back to the original source. The heart of this issue is whether the practice falls under Fair Use or not.

In a similar case last year, Google was sued by Agence France-Presse (AFP) for its practice of republishing summaries of articles in its websites as part of its Google News service. That case was settled and ended with AFP entering a licensing deal with Google.

Cross-posted to Red State Eclectic.

A collection of links related to copyright, copyfight, and copyfascism.

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I have been reading The Technology Liberation Front (libertarians critiquing developments in the fields of the internet and technology) and came across Tim Lee's repost of the popular webcomic XKCD regarding End-User License Agreements (EULA) with a question, "Legally enforceable?"

Wendy Grossman explained the legal gray area that surrounds every EULA software companies use for their softwares:

If you did read the terms, you might be surprised. Eulas typically specify that the software's publisher is not liable if anything goes wrong. They typically specify the publisher's preferred jurisdiction for legal disputes. And some are even more restrictive: some graphics packages have been known to specify that they cannot be used in the production of pornographic images. Yet these licences are, as Hanlon complained, not really contracts: you generally cannot read them before you buy (rather than use) the software, and you can't negotiate terms.

I have tackled the question before in Copyfascism Watch, where I raised another point that EULAs are not voluntary contracts as they are not agreed upon prior to the purchase of the software. And there is the bizarre claim by manufacturers that consumers are merely purchasing the physical CDs and not the software it contains. I asked, "How legitimate are the claims of manufacturers that consumers are merely buying the CDs and not the permission to install and use the software for which the consumer (rightly, I might add) believed he is paying?"

Jeffrey Tucker of the Mises Blog responded:

[R]estrictive covenants do this all the time with houses for example. You buy the house in a particular neighborhood and it is really yours, but you can't paint your shutters pink and you have to mow your grass and can't leave a sofa on the porch etc. Why can't EULAs amount to a sort of covenant?

In the Mises Blog, Tucker also asked this question, "Are EULAs contrary to property rights?" Tucker seems to be of notion that is similar to a covenant, but therein lies the issue and the difference between physical property covenants and EULAs: covenants are known and agreed upon prior to purchase, EULAs are hidden contracts that is then revealed to you after the purchase.

A commenter named PR raised the same point:

Since the EULA isn't revealed until after the buyer has handed over his money, of course it shouldn't be considered a valid agreement. All the examples of convenants I know of are presented to the buyer before the sale, but a EULA is more like a legal Trojan horse that restricts the use of property one already owns.

Many of the responses seem to miss that point and the important issue regarding this unconscionable agreements: it is secret, it is hidden, and cannot be agreed to prior to purchase. A commenter pointed out that you can always return the software, but most stores I purchase software from only have a return-policy for unopened boxes of software. Of course, one can argue that one can choose not to patronize the store that has taken one's money for a software crippled by an agreement one cannot agree to prior to purchase and afterwards, but since when do libertarians make excuses for theft?

Cross-posted to Red State Eclectic.

Posted Tue, Dec 2 2008 1:38 AM by aheram | 4 comment(s)
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