Ampersand Publishing, the parent company of the Santa Barbara News-Press, agreed to a settlement with the Santa Barbara Independent on April 28, marking the end of a long and trying lawsuit.
As a result of the settlement, the Independent has accepted the presiding judge’s ruling that it violated copyright law. The case will no longer proceed to a five-day jury trial, but despite the mutually agreed-upon settlement, the financial terms have not yet been released.
The dispute, initiated by the News-Press on November 9, 2006, arose following the paper’s allegation that the Independent had violated copyright protections by placing an article on its Web site that was authored by a former News-Press reporter.
Although the News-Press never published the article in question, the Independent posted a link to it online without the permission of the News-Press. The story concerned the resignation of former News-Press editor and current UCSB Publications Director Jerry Roberts in July 2006 following a conflict with owner and publisher Wendy McCaw regarding journalistic ethics and policy. The News-Press promptly cried foul and the Independent removed the link.
The Independent’s attorneys claimed the weekly paper’s actions were protected by the fair use doctrine, which permits the use of copyrighted material as long as it seeks to educate the community.
However, the federal judge in charge of the case denied the Independent’s application of the doctrine, as well as several News-Press allegations against the defendant.