"We don't need the Denver Post," says Colorado Pols' Jason Bane
Yesterday, Colorado Pols, Denver's preeminent political website, published a legal-action-threatening piece revealing that it had received a letter from attorney Christopher Beall, representing Denver Post owner MediaNews Group and two other newspaper companies. The allegation? That Colorado Pols has been stealing his clients' content by using too much of it in blog posts.
A surprised Jason Bane.
Colorado Pols' Jason Bane responds, "We don't need the Denver Post. Nobody does."
The letter, dated May 21 and signed by Beall on behalf of MediaNews Group, Freedom Communications (owner of the Colorado Springs Gazette) and Swift Communications (owner of the Greeley Tribune), declares in part:
Your publication's wholesale, and unjustified, use of the news content published by our clients, which is produced at significant expense by them and from which your firm is deriving advertising revenue everyday without our clients' permission and without any compensation to our clients by your firm, constitutes multiple violations of our clients' rights under the federal Copyright Act and the common law doctrine of hot news misappropriation.
That's followed by a list of Colorado Pols posts that used between three and eight paragraphs from assorted articles published by the Post, etc. According to Beall, the escalating amount of text cropping up in such items prompted the letter.
A screen-shot of Colorado Pols on Thursday afternoon.
"There had been a gentleman's understanding between the political desk at the Post that Colorado Pols would take no more than two paragraphs" from articles it was referencing, Beall says. "That had been the Post's expectation and understanding. But at some point this year, it appeared to the Post that something had changed, and Colorado Pols had been going well beyond two paragraphs."
Beall maintains that the Post and the other newspapers he represents weren't seeing a page-view bump from Colorado Pols links.
"I know they take umbrage at that point of my letter -- that there's really no discernible traffic because of their excerpting from our newspapers on their site," he concedes. "But I'm here to tell you, there wasn't any. We've looked at the metrics, and the excerpting with a link wasn't causing traffic to come to our site."
One possible reason: The site was grabbing so much text that "people were getting whatever news value there was from the portion being excerpted from Colorado Pols," Beall surmises. "So they got their information from a site that was generating ad revenue for Colorado Pols. And that's the fundamental problem -- and it's the problem with all news aggregators. It's fine to say, 'We gave you a credit,' and build a link. But at the end of the day, one website is making money off the work of another website, and that's not fair."
Bane's response upon hearing these statements is a mixture of surprise, amusement and exasperation. He says there was no "gentlemen's agreement" of the sort Beall describes in regard to the amount of text Colorado Pols might use: "That's the first I've heard of that," he says.
He also disputes the assertion about negligible traffic from Colorado Pols back to the Post and the other newspapers.