It's NYTCo's Turn To Complain About Aggregators

imageThe dispute between Michael Wolff’s news aggregator Newser and the NYTimes.com over the method of linking by the former to the latter is a little surprising, considering the similarities it has with the NYTCo’s recent court case in Massachusetts. As MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka describes it, it may be much ado about nothing.

Shortly after posting a NYTimes.com item about the death penalty and the recession, Wolff was a sent a letter from the NYTCo’s legal department ordering him to take down a link that included a photograph with the company’s trademark “Gothic ‘T'” logo without permission. This could be a problem for Newser, since all the aggregated stories that appear on its home page feature graphical links to the original article and a logo from the news source, including AP, People.com, USA Today and others (see an example at the left). As of late afternoon on Wednesday, a NYTimes.com story — with a photo and the “T” logo — were present on Newser’s site. If the NYTCo (NYSE: NYT) really wants Wolff to stop using the logo, he will, telling Kafka, “I would be perfectly willing to replace it with a skull and cross bones.”

Still, the flap does sound a lot like what the NYTCo went through in December, when local Massachusetts newspaper publisher GateHouse Media sued the company for copyright infringement. The suit was aimed at the NYTCo’s Boston Globe local sites use of links to GateHouse headlines and story ledes. The crux of the issue there was GateHouse’s frustration that while the Boston.com channels linked back to the original stories, it allowed readers to skip the more valuable online ads on its GateHouse’s papers’ homepages. Apart from that legal problem, which the NYTCo quickly settled last month, the feud is also surprising in light of the NYTimes.com’s recent embrace of aggregation on its own homepage.

As our Staci D. Kramer reminded me, this episode doesn’t suggest that the NYTCo is suddenly anti-aggregation. For one thing, this issue is mainly about the use of its trademark and properly crediting its photos. After all, even before its recent efforts to broaden its gathering of others’ posts, it bought news aggregator BlogRunner way back in 2005.

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