Hartford Courant wants plagiarism suit dismissed

The Hartford Courant is asking a federal judge to dismiss a $7.5 million plagiarism lawsuit filed by a competing newspaper, saying no copyright laws were broken.

The Hartford Courant is asking a federal judge to dismiss a $7.5 million plagiarism lawsuit filed by a competing newspaper, saying no copyright laws were broken.

Lawyers for the Courant filed a motion to dismiss the Journal Inquirer's lawsuit on May 4, nearly two years after Courant CEO and Publisher Richard Graziano acknowledged publicly that the newspaper had unintentionally plagiarized competitors.

The Journal Inquirer, based about 10 miles east of Hartford in Manchester, first filed the lawsuit in state court in 2009, but withdrew it for technical reasons. The paper refiled it in federal court in February, claiming the Courant plagiarized at least 10 Journal Inquirer stories in violation of copyright laws.

In court papers, the Courant said "the only similarities between the parties' works relate to inclusion of the same public domain facts" and therefore there was no copyright infringement.

Journal Inquirer attorney Richard Weinstein disagreed, saying the stories were similar enough to warrant legal action. A lawyer for the Courant declined to comment.

A mandatory settlement conference is set for December and a trial before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny in Hartford for March 2012.

The Journal Inquirer is a family-owned newspaper with a circulation of about 35,000, while the Tribune Co.-owned Courant has a weekday circulation of about 135,000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

In 2009, Journal Inquirer Managing Editor Chris Powell and editors of other small Connecticut papers complained about the Courant's "aggregation" policy, in which it summarized or rewrote other papers' stories without permission and put them on the Courant's website with attribution to the original newspaper.

The Journal Inquirer said some of those stories later appeared in Courant print editions with attribution either removed or changed to the Courant.

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