Newspaper Legal Impasse Gets Curiouser

UPDATE: The blog Ed News Colorado takes its own issue with the Post:

We’re happy to credit  the Post when referencing a story from the only remaining city daily so we have no problems with the Post  copyright policy prominently displayed yesterday on its website. We would ask, however, that the newspaper follow its own guidelines:

But fair use of our content restricts those who want to reference it to reproduce no more than a headline and up to a couple of paragraphs or a summary of the story. (We also request users provide a link to the entire work on our website).

In a Post editorial, also published yesterday, the paper referred to original work by Education News Colorado and neither gave us credit nor included a link, though our partners at 9News did so prominently:

Recent news reports in Colorado in which some educators are questioning whether a sharp rise in drug offenses in schools is attributable to medical marijuana could be devastating to legalization efforts.

Apparently the policy applies only to other people.


The Denver Post published an unusual notice yesterday, which seems to pertain to their legal threats against this blog earlier in the year. We’re not entirely sure what to make of this notice in relation to the letter the Post’s attorneys sent us in May, but we’re pretty sure what they assert in this notice relating to the use of their copyrighted material cannot apply to us.

To recap, we were sent a letter in May from attorney Christopher Beall, representing the owners of the Denver Post, the Colorado Springs Gazette, and various local papers owned by Swift Communications. This letter made a number of assertions about our blogging practices that we dispute, and ordered us to stop quoting any material from these publications. There’s a very clear demand in the letter, which bears no resemblance to what the Post wrote on Sunday. From the letter:

Please be advised that our clients hereby demand that Colorado Pols cease and desist from any and all unauthorized literal copying from our clients’ newspapers or websites, i.e., from any of the publications operated by MediaNews Group, Freedom Communications, and Swift.

Our clients reserve all their rights with respect to this matter, including their right to seek injunctive relief to halt your website’s unlawful conduct.

Not even with a prominent cite and link, which we always gave. Not even a headline or “a couple of paragraphs” as the law plainly allows under fair use. Nothing. The Colorado Statesman left no ambiguity on this point in their interview with Beall:

If the news organizations just wanted the website to post briefer excerpts and be sure to add some commentary, why initiate the discussion with such a hard-line stance? Beall said confusion about the law required hitting hard out of the gate.

“The position we stake out is, if you want to be sure you’re not infringing, don’t engage in any literal copying,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

This demand was and remains well in excess of their legal rights, and significantly beyond the policy described in the Denver Post’s published notice yesterday. At no point has the Post attempted to reconcile the unreasonable and legally unjustifiable demands made on us in their attorney’s letter with this published notice, which appears to comport better with the law.

In the absence of something concrete rescinding the demands improperly made on us, this notice doesn’t change a thing in terms of our relationship with these newspapers. We will continue to avoid quoting their material in all cases, and avoid linking whenever possible–which it usually is. We ask all Colorado Pols users to follow the same guidelines.

There have been cases where individual reporters at the Post and other outlets involved in this dispute have obtained an exclusive scoop, or done an exceptionally good job with the details of a given story. In those cases we have, at our sole discretion, given a link to them. We can only say again that we regret being unable to freely highlight the work of journalists who we do value, but the decision to prevent us via draconian legal threats from doing so was not ours.

33 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Ignatius O'Reilly says:

    Stop your whining and produce your own content.

    • Colorado Pols says:

      Uh, we are producing our own content.

      We’re just making it clear to our readers and users that despite what may have appeared in the Post yesterday, our policy has not changed: Please do not use any material from the Denver Post.

      • Ignatius O'Reilly says:

        Here’s the key part:

         “We have no issue with people who quote a small amount of a Post story so as to comment on it, perhaps even criticize us. That’s the essence of free speech in a vigorous democracy.

         But fair use of our content restricts those who want to reference it to reproduce no more than a headline and up to a couple of paragraphs or a summary of the story. (We also request users provide a link to the entire work on our website)….

         We understand people may want to share what they find interesting in our publication. This is a reminder that there is a right way to do it.

        Still not sure what’s the big deal here. The Post is saying you can quote it. You’re saying you can’t. Who’s right?

        Time to stop being so butthurt and just do what the original content producer asks, if you want to use its stuff.

        • Ignatius O'Reilly says:

          why the picture I tried to post did show up in my original comment when I hit “preview,” but then disappeared when the comment finally appeared here.

          Hey Pols: How about some easy macros to post pix and youtube links?

        • If the paper had sent me a legal notice, I’d pay attention to it rather than any subsequent notice published in the paper.

          Regardless of the likely outcome of any actual case brought against this site in light of the new notice (but, your honor, they’ve granted this permission via a published notice to the world, and it post-dates our previous disagreement with the Post), it is expensive to fight legal battles, and an attorney’s notice is much more direct than a published “how to do it” Fair Use notice.

          You seem to have a problem with this site and its editors; why are you here?

          • Colorado Pols says:

            It doesn’t make any difference to us what the Post does or does not say on its website or printed pages. Until we get a legal notice from their attorneys saying something other than their original letter, which CLEARLY stated that we were not to use ANY material, then we aren’t changing anything. Here’s the key part of that letter from the Post:

            Please be advised that our clients hereby demand that Colorado Pols cease and desist from any and all unauthorized literal copying from our clients’ newspapers or websites, i.e., from any of the publications operated by MediaNews Group, Freedom Communications, and Swift.

            Our clients reserve all their rights with respect to this matter, including their right to seek injunctive relief to halt your website’s unlawful conduct.

            So…why are we the bad guy here?  

            • Leonard Smalls says:

              Make sure you have a registered agent with the USPTO designated to receive DMCA takedown requests, that shields you in the event they decide to get suey.

            • DBuck says:

              I gather the DP is saying that CP cannot ever, ever quote without prior authorization even one word from a DP story, which is an absurd argument.

              The DP appears loath, extremely loath, to even acknowledge that fair use exists.  

              Helpful discussion here,


              What constitutes fair use, and whether it is a right or privilege are not entirely undisputed questions.  Nonetheless, fair use exists, whether the DP can bring itself to utter its name.


              • bullshit! says:

                Has misrepresented their demands from the beginning. Chuck Plunkett wrote a column that lies about the letter they sent. The Post has never publicly acknowledged what their lawyer said in the interview cited by the Guvs, confirming that they demanded this blog give up its fair use rights.

                What the Denver Post is trying to do here makes me sick, and it’s so much worse when they won’t even tell the truth about it.

              • cdsmith says:

                Powerful business interests have always exploited uncertainly in the law.  “If you want to be sure you’re legally using such-and-such, just buy a license”, or “Maybe that law protects you, but we wouldn’t risk it”.  The comment by the lawyer in the interview quoted above is in the same vein.

                Non-wealthy Americans have one reasonable option: stay the hell away from litigious people.

  2. brightstar says:

    to the Post’s general advocacy of First Amendment issues.  Very discordant.

    • Voyageur says:

      higher profits for media monopolists.  Otherwise, don’t forget that freedom can become license!

       –From the Code of Ethics of the American Newspaper Publisher’s Association, as cited in the Encyclopedia of Oxymorons.

  3. dmindgo says:

    Anything the publish is FACT.

    Anything appearing on blogs is scurrilous something-or-other.

    If I could just get the Post delivered on my doorstep by 6 a.m. on the day of publishing and without a sports section…

  4. SamCat says:

    I, for one, would like to thank you for having this website.  With few exceptions, it seems to be home for a lot of very bright and well-read people.

    I have learned a great deal here.

    Again, Thank you.


  5. ohwilleke says:

    isn’t well supported.  Fair use is considerably more fuzzy than it they portray it to be.

    Certainly, outright copying of entire stories on a regular basis is infringing.  But, the “headline and paragraph or two” standard exists nowhere in the law.

  6. RedGreen says:

    probably has more to do with something like this than it does with Colorado Pols.

  7. DavidThi808 says:

    They miss us, they really, really miss us. (Or to be more accurate, they miss the links to their site from here once they realized the traffic this place gets.)

    • Ignatius O'Reilly says:

      but my bet is that Pols gets only a tiny percentage of traffic of the sport websites that lift Post coverage. I think this is aimed more at the deadspins and kissingsuzykolbers of the world.

      • bullshit! says:

        This is like the third different way you have attempted to troll this post. The first two ways, above, wound up contradicting each other.

        Give it a rest, will you? Your agenda could not be more obvious.

        • Ignatius O'Reilly says:

          because most days when I wake up I don’t know my agenda.

          Here’s my agenda today: I make a living off intellectual property (not at the Denver Post), and it bugs me to see it lifted by anyone.

          To Pols’ credit, they posted the letter from the Post lawyers here:

          Doesn’t seem like many here have read it. It lists a dozen examples in two weeks where either Pols or posters here lifted the guts of a story while “generating no more than zero to five clicks to the underlying stories at the Denver Post website.”

          The way I read the Post lawyer letter, the Post is less pissed about Pols’ lifting intellectual property and more pissed that it’s not getting anything out of the deal.

          I like Pols because the commenters here know more about Colorado politics than on any other site I’ve found. It’s fun to be here.

          Why is it cool to take and reproduce someone else’s labor without compensation? How would you feel if you had paid considerable money to produce content that was reproduced by someone else without getting anything (clicks, money, whatever) in return?

          • Fidel's dirt nap says:

            They can’t duplicate the success or following that Pols has, so rather than trying to innovate they’ll just sue them.

            They haven’t been honest about what they’re doing, whereas Pols has been completely transparent on the issue.

            On top of that the irony of ironies is that the Post is doing exactly what they are accusing Pols of.  The story about the Republican party in Colorado possibly becoming a minority party is a perfect example.

            Its pretty pathetic actually.

          • Fair Use isn’t about revenue, it’s about Fair Use.  In this country at least, Intellectual Property is primarily maintained for the good of the People, though it doesn’t seem so most days.  Creation of new works is incentivized by limited grants from the Congress for exclusive rights to those works.

            My work depends on the IP I create; so do two of my hobbies (one of which makes money, the other hopefully will make an occasional buck some year).  But my work also depends on the exchange of information; in an all-or-nothing IP world, that doesn’t happen; the same goes for most written content, including newspaper and blog stories.

            If the Ghost isn’t getting links, perhaps it’s because their writing really isn’t adding anything to the discussion beyond the first paragraph or two; CP generates a lot of insightful response comments to a lot of its posts, and people reading here often don’t see the need to go to the original article for more detail.

  8. parsingreality says:

    Daily newspapers are an important part of my life and have been for almost all of the adult portion.

    Nevertheless, between the strong rightward drift of the last five years and this heavy handed, probably illegal position on Fair Use, I say, “Fuck ’em! I’ll just take the other Denver paper!”

    Oh, wait……  

    But do you think The Rocky would have participated in this shakedown?  Of course, I don’t really know, nor does anyone else.  

    • droll says:

      there wouldn’t be this problem at all.

      My mother worked for the RMN for years until she was bought out during the merger.  To her this sounds like someone wanted a reason circulation is so low and decided it’s because people are getting not news, but the Post itself, from somewhere else.  Probably forgetting about, or underestimating, the click through.  Whoops.

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