The New York TImes Co. was forced to change its linking practices after it reached a settlement agreement with GateHouse Media. This is another case that raises legal issues in relation to what most consider to be a typical Web-linking practice. This case and the issues it brings up regarding fair use disturbs legal scholars Clarke Walton and Sarah Bird.
For a brief review, GateHouse Media filed a lawsuit against The New York Times Co. for violating its copyright and trademark by linking to GateHouse articles and displaying their headlines and first sentences. The allegations were primarily directed toward the Boston Globe and Boston.com, which are owned by The New York Times.
The companies reached a settlement and the Times agreed to remove the headlines and text excerpts from GateHouse media stories previously posted on Boston.com.
As Clarke points out in the video above, we don’t fully know whether or not The New York Times was in the wrong because there was not a judicial decision. He personally believes the NYT had legitimate fair use to publish the headlines and leads.
Sarah also raises some concern in this case since many news aggregators and bloggers consider the practice of linking to an article including the headline and lead, a “common business model” on the Web. If this practice is not fair use and the Times actually is in the wrong, then the Internet, as we know it, could drastically change.
The reason why the New York Times didn’t take the case to court for a judicial decision remains a mystery. However, Sarah suspects that time and money played a large role in their choice.