The New York Times Cracks Down on a Pay Wall Cheat, Kind Of

The Grey Lady sends a cease and desist letter based on copyright infringement

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The Canadian developer who figured out how to take down The New York Times' $40-50 million paywall with three lines of code has received a cease and desist letter. But the Times isn't demanding that he take down the hack, they just want him to stop calling it NYTClean.

For those who aren't caught up, last week we tested David Hayes's pay wall-destroying hack called NYTClean. It works really well and it's easy to install (you just drag the button on this page onto your toolbar). We were surprised the Times wasn't raising a fuss about it but now they have (except it's just a minor fuss).

In a letter sent to Hayes (reposted on his blog), the Times tells Hayes to change the name of his NYTClean hack.

"We object to your use of our famous 'NYT' trademark in connection with your application and your promotion thereof, which constitutes trademark dilution and trademark infringement under U.S. and Canadian trademark law," the Times senior counsel writes. "Accordingly, we ask that you immediately cease use of the 'NYT' trademark in connection with this application. This email is without prejudice to any action that may be necessary to protect the valuable rights of NYTCo in its intellectual property."

For Hayes, this is no biggie. He says he'll just change the name to "NYNewspaperClean or something." For the Times, apparently this is no biggie either. Everytime someone comes up with a new paywall-cheating manuever (like the Twitter account @freeNYTimes) the newspaper never objects to the purpose of the workaround (reading Times content for free) but rather objects on the grounds of trademark infringement. And this isn't because it has no legal recourse to object, notes Joshua Benton at Harvard's Nieman Lab. He says NYTClean was a "prime candidate" to prompt a claim under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anti-circumvention rules. "Those rules place limits on the use of tools to get around DRM, which in the right light the Times paywall could be considered," he writes.

Either way, it's still possible that the Times will use the DMC later on depending on how many people are exploiting the paywall's many loopholes. For now, sending cease and desist letters may just be the easiest way to slow down paywall hoppers until the company's legal department drafts more aggressive language.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.