Newspaper nabs website's article, claims most of it is 'public domain'

Decaturish

The Newnan (Georgia) Times-Herald reproduced an article Dan Whisenhunt wrote for the Atlanta-area news site Decaturish, which he also edits. After Whisenhunt complained, the Times-Herald removed his article.

Whisenhunt also noticed the paper had offered his article, which the Times-Herald ran with his byline, for sale in the archive, and sent an invoice for $1,000. "I do not think your staff would publish content from the New York Times or the Washington Post on your website without a prior content sharing agreement," Whisenhunt wrote.

Times-Herald General Manager John Winters replied, saying "Most authors, including newspapers, seek to have as extensive circulation of their articles as possible so long as appropriate attribution is provided," and that since it only got 30 pageviews on the Times-Herald's site, "any damage to viewership on your site, as a result of our posting the article, would be miniscule." In addition, he contended:

Also, any factual material in the article you posted is not covered by the copyright laws. All facts, even comments by persons quoted in an article, are in the public domain.

Finally, you did not provide us with any documentation that supports any copyright registration or copyright protection you might have obtained for the article in question. Before we can consider doing anything further in regard to your complaint, please let us have copies of documentation that support any copyright registration or protections you might have obtained for the article in question.

Winters is on the board of the Georgia Press Association. GPA President Eric Denty told Whisenhunt that "Since this appears to be a dispute about which you and The Newnan Times Herald have different views, I do not expect the Georgia Press Association to become involved in it."

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.

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