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Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008 09:02 pm

AGGREGATION FRUSTRATION

GateHouse Media, which owns the State Journal-Register and several other newspapers in Illinois, on Monday Dec. 22 sued the New York Times Co. for doing it a favor. In its lawsuit, filed in Massachusetts U.S. District court, Fairport, N.Y.-based GateHouse charges that NYT-owned news Web sites in the Boston area violated copyrights by displaying “verbatim copies of newspaper article and headlines and first sentences” from articles posted on Gatehouse’s branded “Wicked Local” sites.

Media industry watchers are paying close attention to the court battle that could impact the widespread practice of combining information from newspaper Web pages, blogs, and other sources onto one site, known in the business as aggregation.

GateHouse isn’t talking about the suit, however, declining to so much as post the news on its Web site. Times Co., on the other hand, did issue a statement saying, “linking to sites is common and is familiar to anyone who has searched the Web. . . . It is fair and benefits both Web users and the originating site.”

So either GateHouse doesn’t understand how the Internet works — and that they’re getting additional Web traffic for free when their links are posted on other sites — or is hoping Times Co. can help alleviate some of the $1.23 billion in debt the company was carrying at the time of its most recent earnings statement. In addition to seeking an end to the practice, GateHouse is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

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