Hartford Courant Sued Again for Plagiarism, Denies copyright infringement

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The Hartford Courant has been sued again by the Journal Inquirer. (Credit: Hartford Courant)

Even though the Hartford Courant admitted to plagiarizing some of its competitors’ work back in 2009, the newspaper is calling for one of those competitors, the Journal Inquirer, to drop its lawsuit alleging copyright infringement, the Associated Press reported.

The Journal Inquirer of Manchester originally filed a lawsuit against the Hartford Courant in 2009 when the alleged plagiarism occured and was admitted, but dropped it “for technical reasons.” However, the Journal Inquirer has refiled that lawsuit for $7.5 million this year, the Associated Press reportedThe Courant is being accused of plagiarizing “at least 10 Journal Inquirer stories in violation of copyright laws.”

But, in this most recent legal filing, the Courant reportedly denied copyright infringement and claimed that “the only similarities between the parties’ works relate to inclusion of the same public domain facts,” Kansas City Star reported. That statement seems to counter the Courant’s admission of plagiarism in 2009.

Fox News noted that the two newspapers have been “direct competitors” since 1968.  According to Mondo Times, the Courant is a Tribune Publishing-owned daily newspaper in Hartford, Connecticut, with a circulation of about 135,000 copies. The Manchester Journal Inquirer is published six days a week in Manchester, Connecticut, a large Hartford suburb, and reportedly has a circulation of about 31,000 copies.

In 2009, after the Courant’s newsroom staff shrunk due to financial pressures, the newspaper started aggregating some of its competitors’ work, according to Journal Inquirer. While the newspaper did ordinarily attribute the work to other newspapers, there were some exceptions in which the Courant reported other newspapers’ work without any attribution or credit, a 2009 Journal Inquirer article explained.  A total of five newspapers reportedly had their work lifted.

Overall, the Courant’s practice was slammed, specifically by the Journal Inquirer’s managing editor Chris Powell, who in 2009 reportedly sent a complaint letter to Courant CEO and publisher Richard Graziano, as Kansas City Star reported.  Powell reportedly stated that the Courant is “welcome” to credit the Journal Inquirer for “the occasional big story,” the Courant should be doing its own reporting on “ordinary events in the towns in which our circulation overlaps.”

In response, Courant spokesperson Andrea Savastra reportedly commented at the time that the Courant is “respectful of others’ intellectual property” and would be “looking into the matter.”

Later, the Courant’s Graziano admitted in a letter to readers that the newspaper “unintentionally” plagiarized, according  to the AFP.

Fox News reported that the Journal Inquirer’s Powell stated:”Either hire reporters to cover these towns or don’t. Their intent in taking our work was malicious and they did wrong, and they need their knuckles rapped over it.”

In 2009, Columbia Journalism Review summarized the problem at hand:

“The issue here isn’t that some staffers committed plagiarism by failing to attribute information to competitors. The real problem is that, after cutting the paper’s news staff in half and pulling out of local news coverage, Courant managers decided as a matter of policy to rewrite the copy of the paper’s competitors—for free, with credit to the originator but without their permission—and print it in the Courant and on its Web site as a substitute for doing the work itself.

The Courant simply rewrote all salient facts in these (short) stories, treating competitors as though they were some kind of free Associated Press. The fact that some staffers may have left off the ‘Journal Inquirer reported’ makes it worse, but the issue is taking something that’s not yours in the first place. This is the issue the Courant chooses not to address.”

Kansas City Star reported that there will be a “settlement conference” in December and a trial in March 2012.

iMediaEthics wrote to the Journal Inquirer for comment.  The JI’s Powell responded that it doesn’t have “any new comment on the plagiarism case.”  We also wrote to the Hartford Courant for comment and will update with any response.

Earlier this month, Australian newspaper The Age accused its competitor the Herald Sun of plagiarism after the Herald Sun allegedly re-reported the Age’s “exclusive story” without any attribution or mention of the Age.  While the Herald Sun claimed it independently verified the Age’s story and therefore there was no plagiarism, the Age claimed that was not possible.

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Hartford Courant Sued Again for Plagiarism, Denies copyright infringement

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