Media

Denver Post, MediaNews Group executives not eager to talk about copyright-violations warning

On Sunday, the Denver Post published "Notice to Readers About Denver Post Copyright Protections" -- although readers weren't really the target audience. The piece is actually a bellicose warning to content thieves who reproduce Post stories or photos without permission. So... what prompted the Post to rattle this saber? Are lawsuits imminent? And against who? Dunno -- because the folks at the paper seem disinterested in discussing it.

This past Monday, I left a message with Denver Post president Jerry Grilly requesting an interview on the subject. No reply. The following day, I e-mailed Post editor Greg Moore asking if he could chat about the topic, and if not, who I should contact about it. He replied that Sara Glines, who was promoted in March to vice president of field operations for Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group, which owns the Post, should be able to answer my questions. But no. Since then, I've left Glines multiple messages, via e-mail and voicemail, but have yet to receive a reply.

This much we know. In July, ColoradoPols.com, among the state's leading political websites, published a May 21 letter from attorney Christopher Beall. The missive, penned on behalf of the Post, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Greeley Tribune -- see it below -- accused ColoradoPols of "infringement/misappropriation of news content" for republishing too much content from numerous stories that originated with the complaining newspapers and threatened potential "injunctive relief" if changes weren't made.

In an interview with Westword about the letter, Beall said there had been a "gentleman's understanding" between the Post and ColoradoPols that the site wouldn't reproduce more than two paragraphs of any story it was referencing -- but instead, ColoradoPols had routinely used many more than that. The letter mentions several posts that featured eight paragraphs.

To that, ColoradoPols' Jason Bane said he knew nothing about such a "gentleman's understanding" and took umbrage at Beall's suggestion that the Post received no appreciable traffic bump from items referencing its work. (ColoradoPols always included links.) He added, "We don't need the Denver Post" -- and ever since, ColoradoPols has avoided reproducing content from the paper or even mentioning its name, preferring to reference it generically. For instance, this piece, about failed gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis's recent chat with the Post, nods only to "today's Denver newspaper."

As for the Post's Sunday salvo, I can't share its five paragraphs here, for fear of becoming sacrificial carrion for the paper's legal eagles. But I'll boldly risk retribution by sharing these two sentences: "The fair use rule generally does not entitle users to display the whole story or photograph on their website. To do so is a violation of our copyright and we will use all legal remedies available to address these infringements."

The ballsiness of this pronouncement would presumably have been enhanced had anyone from the Post or MediaNews Group been bold enough to expand on it. Instead, we're left to wait and see if the warning is followed by action.

Here's the letter sent to ColoradoPols:

More from our Media archive: "Denver Post online circulation figures better than print, but hookup with The Onion is no joke."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts