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ColoradoPols is a Colorado political news and information site. Eighteen Colorado newspapers filed cease and desist letter, claiming copyright violations. (Credit: ColoradoPols.com)

Is it fair use, or a copyright violation, to post sections of news stories on a blog?

A recent cease and desist letter sent from three newspaper chains to a Colorado political news site says it’s theft of intellectual property.  The political site, Colorado Pols, argues it is not, and that without its – and other blogs – linking to newspapers’ stories, newspapers will suffer.

Roy Greenslade reported July 9 for The Guardian that three newspaper chains – Media News Group, Freedom Communications, and Swift Communications – sent a cease and desist letter to the ColoradoPols website claiming copyright violations.

The three chains represent a total of 183 newspapers, Greenslade wrote.  ColoradoPols posts Colorado political news and stories.

Greenslade posted a section of the May 21 letter from the law firm representing the chains, which said “It appears that the entire business model of the Colorado Pols website is built upon flagrant copying of the hard work of all manner of news media organisations, including not just our clients… but others of this firm’s clients, including the New York Times, Associated Press and CNN.”

The letter also claims the ColoradoPols violates fair use. The whole letter is available here.

Colorado Pols posted July 7 its response to the letter arguing that “you can’t steal something that is already given away for free.”  Because Colorado Pols was only posting articles accessible for free, it argued that it wasn’t stealing anything.

The site also wrote that it didn’t post the full text of the stories, that it clearly named the publication and its author, and linked to the original story.

Colorado Pols also argued the no news outlet can own “hot news.”

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Colorado Pols wrote that it doesn’t believe the newspaper chains’ claims would hold up in court, but since the site doesn’t think it matters which newspaper it uses as a source, “‘it’s not a big deal for us to stop talking about them altogether.”

The newspaper posted its traffic for the month of April – 617,661 page views in the month – and wrote that it would post its July traffic at the end of the month to determine if not linking to The Denver Post would actually matter.

“The bigger point is that we lose absolutely nothing by deciding to cease from pulling a few paragraphs out of one of their stories, but the Post and their quality reporters lose plenty of exposure that comes from other links – which, of course, is the lifeblood of the Internet,” Colorado Pols wrote.

In closing, Colorado Pols wrote that it won’t be quoting or linking to 18 news sites and requested that its users “refrain from referencing or linking to” those sites.

The U.S. copyright office website says that “the distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined.”   Some examples of fair use from the 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law include for illustration, comment, scholarly or technical work and parody.

Jon Bershad wrote on Mediaite July 7  that  “a cursory look” at ColoradoPols indicates the site passes the commentary test for fair use.  But, “print media is dying and the Internet is the main cause. Blogs quoting these sources is kind of like having your murderer kill you and steal and start wearing your clothes as well,” Bershad wrote.

T.R. Donoghue wrote July 7 on The Faster Times that  “the quickest way to irrelevancy for any media outlet is to engage in the petulant games that these Colorado newspapers have. If The Denver Post wants to take its internet ball and go home no one will notice and no one will care. The Denver Post will only succeed in hastening its own demise. The newspapers don’t own the news and the sooner they figure this out the more likely it is that they’ll survive. And those that don’t learn to adapt will simply be relegated to history books and museums – relics of times past and Rockwell Americana.”

As Media Post noted, The Denver Post reported June 22  , the Post’s parent company, Media News Group, intends to “begin testing online pay models this summer” at some of its newspapers.

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Colorado blog won’t link to or source from 18 Colorado newspapers after copyright violation claim

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