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Newport TV, Free Press Trade Legal Threats Over Consolidation Campaign

Newport TV has asked Free Press to stop using its station logos in a campaign to drum up public opposition to newsroom consolidation, saying the campaign is false and such use is copyright infringement. Free Press counters it is nothing of the sort. Both have threatened to sue over the issue.

Free Press cited Newport's WAWS-TV and WTEV-TV in a YouTube video as part of its Change the Channels campaign charging that stations that combined newsroom operations as part of shared services or joint sales agreements -- which are not against FCC rules -- were circumventing ownership limits by a kind of covert consolidation.

Among those it identified were Newport's WAWS Jacksonville, and WTEV there, with which it has a shared services agreement (!/markets/418/jacksonville-fla.).

Newport Associate General Counsel Eva Wojtalewski sent a cease and desist letter to Free Press July 1 saying that the video campaign was false and misleading and that Free Press did not have the right to use the logo on its Web site and other materials. Newport threatened to sue Free Press if it did not cease and desist.

Free Press countered in a response letter June 8 that Newport's allegations are false and malicious and that use of the images in an "advocacy and educational video" is fair use.

Free Press also says that YouTube has notified it that the video has been removed due to Newport's' copyright infringement claim.

"Newport has failed to present any legitimate grounds under the Copyright Act that would require Free Press to cease its fair use of this material," said Free Press Policy Counsel Corie Wright in a letter. "Free Press indentified WAWS-TV's and WTEV-TV's shared website content and branding as an example of a questionable industry practice." Free Press says that it is not surprised that Newport would prefer the stations not be singled out, adding "'chagrin' is not cognizable claim."

Free Press says it has filed a counter notification to YouTube demanding restoration of the video, threatening to sue Newport for "tortuous interference" with its contract with YouTube.