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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Americans For Prosperity admits wrongdoing after copying full news stories

NASHUA – Dozens of articles published and copyrighted by newspapers around New England posted on a New Hampshire political website will be taken down and will be a “top priority,” the group’s director said Wednesday.

The state director for Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire said he’ll make sure his group is “fully compliant” with copyright laws after The Telegraph discovered several of its own articles, as well as articles from other media outlets, posted on the group’s website. ...

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NASHUA – Dozens of articles published and copyrighted by newspapers around New England posted on a New Hampshire political website will be taken down and will be a “top priority,” the group’s director said Wednesday.

The state director for Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire said he’ll make sure his group is “fully compliant” with copyright laws after The Telegraph discovered several of its own articles, as well as articles from other media outlets, posted on the group’s website.

“It’s a non-negotiable issue,” Greg Moore said Wednesday. “If anything is up, it will be changed.”

The Telegraph sent a cease-and-
desist order to Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire on Monday regarding several posts that appeared to be copied from the newspaper without attribution or bylines. Stories from WMUR-TV, the
Eagle-Tribune in Massachusetts, the Portsmouth Herald, the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Boston Globe and The Associated Press also appeared on the AFP New Hampshire site. Some of the stories were dated as far back as September 2011.

Moore said taking the published material down was a “no brainer” and said he forwarded The Telegraph’s cease-and-desist order to the group’s legal counsel.

Moore said the removal of the misused material will be “a top priority for the Web administrator.”

“I’ll admit my focus has been distracted by our major upcoming event Saturday,” Moore said.

The event, called a Freedom Summit will be held Saturday in Manchester and has Sen. Rand Paul; Sen. Mike Lee; former Gov. Mike Huckabee; Newt Gingrich; Rep. Marsha Blackburn; Donald Trump; and Arthur Brooks scheduled as speakers.

The material on AFP-NH’s website, which was mostly removed by Wednesday evening, drew reactions from editors in the Granite State who voiced concern their work had been improperly used.

“Clearly, Americans for Prosperity is clueless when it comes to respecting copyright law,” said Telegraph Editor Phil Kincade. “It undermines the credibility of a national organization when it’s too lazy, too ignorant or both to respect the intellectual property rights of others.”

Howard Altschiller, executive editor at The Portsmouth Herald, also reacted and said “the whole thing looks sloppy.”

Altschiller pointed out that the conservative group had inconsistent use of bylines and had even misnamed his newspaper on some of their own stories.

The Portsmouth Herald is referenced as The Portsmouth Press Herald several times on the website.

Like The Telegraph, Altschiller said permission was not given to Americans for Prosperity for the use of their content.

“I’m going to give them a call and ask them to abide by fair usage rules,” Altschiller said.

Greg Sullivan, legal counsel for Union Leader Corp., confirmed that the use was a copyright violation but said he could not comment further at this time.

Adam Nicholson, a spokesman at the group’s national headquarters in Arlington, Va., said the postings are “not standard procedure” for AFP.

When The Telegraph contacted Nicholson on Wednesday, he said he was “trying to figure this out.”

AFP, which lists all material on their website as copyrighted, stopped speaking with The Telegraph when asked how the group would follow up on a copyright violation of their own material.

A survey of AFP’s national website found links to seven other state chapters that, in their “newsroom” sections, created stand alone pages populated with complete versions of news stories copied from other sources.

Those pages did not provide links back to the original news sources, which is a standard practice.

Similar to the New Hampshire chapter, several of the bylines belonging to reporters creating the original content were stripped from the pages as well.

When linking to content created by others, it is accepted Web practice to provide a brief excerpt of the content with credit and a link back to the original source. While this was done on some AFP sites, the offending sites published the entire articles absent of back links.

The sampling of these pages also found AFP member websites consistently added links at the bottom of copied content that asked if readers “like this post” they could donate money to support the group’s efforts.

In addition to New Hampshire, other similar practices were found at AFP sites in California, Connecticut, Maine, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Tennessee. Among the news organizations that had their content copied in total were the Washington Examiner, the Washington Post, the Toledo Blade, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News and the Capitol Hill Review. These are in addition to the New Hampshire news organizations whose content was used without permission. Articles from these sites also were mostly removed by Wednesday evening.

AFP is a conservative political advocacy group founded by David Koch in 2004.

Bradford Randall can be reached at 594-6557 or brandall@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Randall on Twitter (@telegraph_bradr).