It’s a battle of two Florida media companies.
On May 5, the News Service of Florida filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against St. Petersburg resident Peter Schorsch and his company Extensive Enterprises Media. Schorsch publishes SaintPetersblog.com and “Sunburn,” a highly popular morning newsletter.
The crux of the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa, by News Service parent company Affiliated News is that Schorsch republishes reporting without permission, benefitting from ad revenue on his websites and growing his own subscriber base, all while making a paid News Service subscription less necessary.
The News Service provides stories and information directly to paid subscribers, as well as other news organizations, such as the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald, which often republish them with permission.
In a blog post and public comment on his own website, Schorsch said the lawsuit isn’t about protecting its copyright, but rather trying to stop declining circulation and a personal feud between News Service management and Schorsch.
“The News Service of Florida has a copyright to its material, but it does not have a copyright on the news. Its accusations of me proactively accessing its material are baseless and — in this day and age of socially-networked news and search engines — ridiculous,” Schorsch wrote. “I understand NSF is having financial problems, but striking out against me and my reporters is not going to solve them.”
Representatives of the News Service couldn’t be reached for comment. But the company’s position is clear in the lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court in Tampa: that it serves the public interest and anything that cuts into its bottom line via copyright concerns is a problem.
“In a time when many Florida newspapers have reduced or outright eliminated their Tallahassee bureaus, (Schorsch’s) conduct threatens the very survival of Affiliated News which provides an objective, independent, and rapid source of reporting on the affairs of government,” the suit says. “There is a strong public interest in maintaining and fostering Affiliated News’ service as a source for objective information on the affairs of state government."