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Gatehouse Media v. New York Times

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Citation Edit

Gatehouse Media Mass., I, Inc. v. New York Times Co., Civ. Action No. 08-12114-WGY (D. Mass. Jan. 2009).

Factual Background Edit

GateHouse Media, which operates numerous newspapers in New England and elsewhere, and associated websites, sued the New York Times claiming, among other things, that its using headlines from and links to GateHouse content on's "Your Town" website constituted copyright and trademark infringement. The New York Times operates several local websites in the Boston area that aggregate local content from the Boston Globe, local blogs, and other newspapers' websites, including GateHouse's websites.

At issue were both the copying of individual headlines and ledes to news stories and the copying of the larger arrangement of stories on Gatehouse web pages. Gatehouse argued that the nature and extent of the copying made the defendant’s news pages perfect substitutes for its own to the limited pool of local advertisers.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

Plaintiff’s argument was supported by an expert report, which saw nothing transformative in the defendant’s competing commercial use:

Bluntly, these are look-alike businesses and they are producing look-alike output from a copyright perspective.[1] Copying a headline plus a lede might involve relatively few words, but under present law, copying only a few words or a small percentage of a work is not necessarily permitted if the heart of a story is copied for competing commercial purposes.

The report, although suggesting copyright infringement, recognized that headlines and ledes might be especially susceptible to a fair use defense because they are not paradigmatically expressive:

all else held equal, a court would be more willing to recognize fair use as applied to news headlines and ledes than it would be to recognize a comparable fair use defense as applied to pure fantasy or science fiction.[2]

Settlement Edit

The case was dismissed due to a settlement.[3]

References Edit

  1. Expert Report of Douglas Gary Lichtman, at 15.
  2. Id.
  3. Information on the settlement is published here.

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