2008-11-13 / Local & State

Pa. Newspaper Accuses Rival Of Stealing Obituaries

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) - A city newspaper, The Times-Tribune, has sued a rival paper and accused it of plagiarizing dozens of obituaries.

The Times Leader, of Wilkes- Barre, lifted 50 obituaries the week of Oct. 27, when it began publishing a Scranton edition meant to compete with The Times-Tribune, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Lackawanna County Court.

"Rather than commit the time, resources and money necessary to implement an original obituary section for its new newspaper, defendant simply copied obituaries from The Times-Tribune ... and published them in its newspaper as though it had prepared them,'' the lawsuit reads.

Ralph Kates, an attorney for The Times Leader, denied the accusation. He said the newspaper obtained the death notices from Legacy. com, a Web site that partners with more than 700 newspapers to place obituaries online.

Kates said both newspapers are affiliates of Legacy.com and that the site's terms and conditions allow obituaries to be republished.

"What I think is going on here is the Scranton Times is suddenly having its monopoly position in news threatened by a competitor and this is the only way it can see to try to inhibit a competitor's entry in the market,'' he said.

But Hayes Ferguson, chief operating officer of Legacy.com, said in an e-mail that the site "does not allow the obituaries we host to be republished by any entity, including other affiliate newspapers.''

The Times-Tribune's lawsuit accuses the Wilkes-Barre paper of misappropriation, unfair competition, fraud, breach of contract and other counts. It seeks monetary damages and an order prohibiting The Times Leader from copying obituaries.

Tim Hinton, a lawyer for The Times-Tribune, said The Times Leader "didn't want to go to market with a brand-new paper without an obituary section, so they copied ours.'' He accused the rival paper of "taking advantage of our time and expenditure and our connections with funeral homes to sell newspapers.''

The Scranton paper does not take other papers' obituaries from Legacy.com, he said.

The Times-Tribune is owned by Scranton-based Times-Shamrock Communications. The Times Leader is owned by Wilkes-Barre Publishing Co. Inc.

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