Newspaper publishers struggle to protect their content

Newspapers have enough trouble as it is. Recently they have had to face websites like The Huffington Post running long excerpts from their pages. But those long excerpts may be too long.

The Huffington Post benefits from having a story via The New York Times (NYT) to draw readers. TheTimes, however, gets nothing out of the deal because many people do not follow the link from The Huffington Post back to the newspaper.

Cut-and-paste pieces at websites like The Huffington Post are helping to undermine what is left of newspaper properties -- their content, which they pay to gather, edit, and report. According toThe New York Times, "When the popular New York business blog Silicon Alley Insider quoted a quarter of Peggy Noonan's Wall Street Journal column in mid-February, the editor added a caveat at the end: 'We thank Dow Jones in advance for allowing us to bring it to you.'"

Dow Jones, part of News Corp (NWS), and The New York Times Company are beginning to be run out of business as readers turn to the internet for news. And they are beginning to think that the problem is exacerbated by sites that "rip off" their content without adequate attribution.

The concept at the center of the dispute is what is called fair use. It is reasonable to take 10% of a piece from The New York Times and put it at another website with little more than a note of attribution? How about 30% or 50%.

Watch for the big newspaper companies to take aggregation websites like The Huffington Post into court to protect their copyrights. It may be one of the last stands that print properties can take.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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