Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Sarah Palin's Publisher Sues Gawker Over Book Excerpt You Haven't Read

Want to read parts of Sarah Palin’s biography before it’s officially released? Head over to Gawker, which has been displaying excerpts from the book since Thursday.

That’s despite the fact that Palin’s publisher HarperCollins filed a lawsuit yesterday against Gawker Media, citing copyright infringement. The post in question is still up there for anyone to read. Palin’s new book,  “America By Heart”, will be officially released Tuesday. [UPDATE: It's gone now, following a federal injunction].

I’m not sure what legal case HarperCollins can make here. Pre-publication book leaks are exceedingly common, and happen most often because news organizations simply buy the books, from stores, before their official release date.

HarperCollins’ statement, via spokeswoman Erin Crum: “We believe that the reprinting of pages from Governor Palin’s book without permission constitutes a blatant infringement of copyright. HarperCollins sent a cease and desist letter to Gawker, which was ignored. Accordingly, HarperCollins has filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York to stop the infringement and to protect our legal rights in the content of the book.”

Gawker hasn’t explained how it acquired the excerpts, but it’s not the only place you can find bits of the book on the Web. Gawker has published a response to the lawsuit, titled “Sarah Palin is Mad At Us for Leaking Pages From Her Book”.

I’ve asked both Gawker for comment. Harper Collins is owned by News Corp. as is this Web site.

Legal issues aren’t new for Gawker Media, which often angers people with its provocative and popular posts. What’s different here is that the Palin book has attracted very little attention, at least by the published metrics that Gawker displays next to each post: As of Saturday morning, the excerpts had attracted a mere 52,000 views.

That’s pretty small beans by Gawker standards. A piece published Friday, for instance, which purports to detail John Travolta’s “secret sex life”, has nearly double the traffic, at 90,000 views.

And those numbers really pale in comparison to Gawker posts that have generated legal threats. Last year, for instance, the company published a sorta-sex tape featuring actors from “Grey’s Anatomy” that generated 3.5 million views.

And most famously, a post showing off Apple’s stolen/lost iPhone4 prototype generated more than 13 million views this year. In that incident, police seized a Gawker Media employee’s property, but have yet to charge Gawker with a crime.

But it’s worth noting that Gawker eventually settled with the Grey’s Anatomy actors, and pulled the video off its site.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik