Updated with response from TheWrap editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman.
A year ago, Sharon Waxman, editor-in-chief of TheWrap.com, sent a letter to the CEO of Newser accusing him of not playing fair in the digital news environment, by copying the meat of TheWrap’s stories without giving appropriate credit. Now, Waxman is on the receiving end of a similar letter, sent today by Mail.com Media Corp., parent company of Hollywood news site Deadline.com.
The letter accuses TheWrap of engaging in a “pattern of misappropriating content from Deadline.com” and “passing that information off as its own” without crediting Deadline.
Deadline’s attorney, Bryan Freedman, noted Waxman’s letter to Newser in his own letter. “MMC agrees with Ms. Waxman,” he wrote. “Something must be done about these practices.” Freedman also states that TheWrap must implement new policies to discourage infringement, and that he’ll be monitoring TheWrap going forward. “Rest assured, nothing will fly under our radar,” he writes.
Update: Sharon Waxman, editor-in-chief of TheWrap, responded to the allegations in an e-mail, writing: “This move by Nikki Finke shows how threatened she is by the rise of TheWrap. We know that we have become the market leader in this space, and it seems obvious that she does too. There is no merit at all to the convoluted claims in Mail.com’s letter. We properly credit other sources when we cite their reporting. Otherwise we do our own reporting in a competitive space where many outlets are chasing the same information.”
In an article written this afternoon about the letter, Deadline editor-in-chief Nikki Finke describes it as part of her site’s “next phase of copyright protection.” Finke says her company has already caused two sites, DeadlineHollyweird.com and BoxOfficeWorld.com, to close up shop after they were sued by Deadline’s parent company last year.
The lawyer’s letter, and Finke’s description of the conduct she objects to, shows why “hot news” claims continue to be a favorite accusation when it comes to threats between competitors in web-based news services. It’s clear that at least some of the behavior that Finke is angry about involves competitors closely following the trail of her reporters, not the actual copying of words..
Finke writes: “It often can take weeks of working our deep sources to report and write our posts. And yet a proliferating number of blogs and websites without the journalism credentials we have often post 5- or 10-minutes after us without individually reporting the articles themselves. And merely calling a studio or network and saying, ‘Is this correct?’, then copying Deadline’s post often word-for-word, does not constitute reporting in my journalism playbook.”
Despite the increasing number of threats over hot news, no hot news case has been litigated thoroughly in the digital news context. A case currently pending in a New York federal appeals court, Barclay’s Capital Inc. v. Theflyonthewall.com, should soon make clear if hot news will have relevance and power in the digital age. Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Twitter have both weighed in on that case, asking courts not to put any burdensome rules on the rapid dissemination of news.