GateHouse Media, which sued Boston.com for copyright infringement last year, has now demanded that the law enforcement message board MassCops.com remove all GateHouse content from its site.
"We wish to advise you that the stories, headlines and/or ledes that you are copying are the copyrighted property of GateHouse Media, Inc., and that your copying constitutes infringement," the company said Wednesday in a letter to MassCops founder Gil Bechtel. "This infringement is not excused by links to the original stories or by indicating the name of the publication in which the content originated."
GateHouse requested that Bechtel respond to the takedown demand by Tuesday. But Bechtel says that he has no easy way of identifying which of the site's 80,000 posts GateHouse is complaining about.
He adds that site's policy is to allow people to post brief excerpts of news items relevant to law enforcement, with links back to the original source. "If anything, it's advertising for them," Bechtel says. "People click on their links to go to their sites and read their stories."
In some cases, however, MassCops members appear to have cut and pasted entire GateHouse articles into the forums. Such activity typically infringes on copyright, but GateHouse posts its articles under a Creative Commons license that allows other publishers to use its content, provided they credit GateHouse and don't use the work for commercial purposes.
The company alleges that MassCops, which accepts Google AdSense ads, doesn't qualify for a Creative Commons license because it's a commercial site.
Bechtel says the site runs ads, but uses the revenue to pay for software and server costs. MassCops also offers $25-a-year memberships to people who don't want to view ads; that revenue also goes toward the site's upkeep. To date, fewer than 300 of the site's 6,000 members have signed up for a paid membership, Bechtel says.
Courts have not clearly said what will render a site commercial under a Creative Commons license.
Creative Commons Corporation itself recently published a 255-page paper examining attitudes about when a use is commercial. Six out of 10 respondents surveyed by Creative Commons for that report said they thought that monetizing content with online ads was commercial, even if the ad revenue only covered the hosting costs.
In addition, if the allegedly infringing material was submitted by users, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides that MassCops wouldn't be liable unless GateHouse first sent a takedown demand specifying the precise articles that it wants removed.
GateHouse has not only demanded the removal of entire articles, but also wants the site to delete snippets and headlines. As in the lawsuit against Boston.com, GateHouse argues that MassCops has no fair use right to even excerpt GateHouse stories.
The Boston.com lawsuit was settled, so a court never ruled on the fair use question.
Which Creative Commons license does GateHouse use?
I assume from the article that they use one of the licenses which includes NC, or non-commercial restrictions, but it's important to keep in mind that not all CC licenses are equal.