Local newspaper boasts ultimate passive-aggressive paywall policy

The North County Gazette, a regional paper covering upstate New York, offers its articles online with a sort of an honor system instead of a standard paywall. OK, but instead of a straight-up honor system or "tip jar" (you read stuff, then drop a micropayment in the bucket), they are totally aggro and threatening about it.

Dig the guilt-trippy decree (in crimson comic sans, no less!) displayed next to each and every article:

And then, check out this insanity:


(thanks, Micah!)


  1. Looks like they’re getting a lot more non-paying customers than they were expecting this morning! Site is buried…

  2. Damn. And I really wanted to read that article about how the giant chicken is back in place at Silver Star in Chesterton, but I used up my freebie learning that the Ballard Home School Association is going to be having their 15th Annual Craft Show.

    1. The ad on the front page for the “Jurisdictionary” has the slogan: “Win without a lawyer.” I think we can tell where their legal advice is coming from.

  3. This is just a bit north of me…

    I’m not sure how they could reasonably expect this to go anywhere in court. There’s a reason that there’s a crime called “Breaking and Entering” and not one called just “Entering”. If you don’t lock your door and someone merely walks in, it’s not a crime. If you ask them to politely to leave and they don’t then it’s trespassing, but that requires that they’re caught in the act.

    If they steal your newspaper then it’s theft. If they just read your newspaper and leave what crime would you charge them with?

    I think they need better web advice and an actual paywall. The internet and it’s concepts elude them.

    1. Actually, “Entering” is trespass – you don’t have to ask someone to leave your property for it to be trespassing, they just have to be there in the first place.
      A better analogy for this case might be if you printed out some texts, placed them on a wall along your property where people walking on the sidewalk could read them, and then ran out and demanded money from anyone who did so…

      1. Fair enough… I’m obviously not a lawyer. I like your analogy better. It has a Monty Python feel to it.

    2. This seems more like pasting stories up in your shop window, and then threatening to sue people who walk past and take a look.

    3. “If you don’t lock your door and someone merely walks in, it’s not a crime.”

      In some states, it’s trespassing to enter a building that is not open to the public and where you’re not previously authorized to be.

      Leaving your door unlocked doesn’t make your house suddenly “open to the public” because your residence is by nature private.

      Of course there’s the affirmative defense that, “I made a mistake,” and it’s not frequently prosecuted as far as I know.

      1. “In some states, it’s trespassing to enter a building that is not open to the public and where you’re not previously authorized to be.”

        I’d hazard a guess that this is true in most states, as trespass is a common law offence, this is true in England, and has been for a very long time.

        On the other hand, this doesn’t mean the comment you were replying to was wrong. It said: “If you don’t lock your door and someone merely walks in, it’s not a crime.” This is also true in England, and I’d again guess that it’s true in most US states.

        Why? Because Trespass isn’t a crime. It’s a civil offence that gives rise to certain rights (for instance the right to demand that the offender stops immediately, the right to compensation for any losses you suffer as a consequence of the trespass, etc.), not a criminal one. There are certain things that turn it into a crime (IIRC, here in England, they are: carrying a weapon while doing it, doing it with intent to commit another crime, not leaving when ordered to do so by the property owner or tenant), but in itself trespass is not a crime.

    4. Paul,

      That’s incorrect. Breaking refers to breaking the plane of the premises.

      If you enter someones unlocked door, you are guilty of breaking and entering and can be arrested.

    5. Uh no, you don’t have to break anything to be convicted of breaking and entering. Going into someone’s house without their permission is still breaking and entering. It is also trespassing.

  4. There’s a business model- put up a website and threaten the universe with lawsuits if it doesn’t pay you forever.

    Or arrange with advertisers to pay you for hits on your website, then post things that are guaranteed to tick people off and watch the money roll in.

  5. Hahaha, one of the pages has this ominous warning!

    “To the Cingular user who is repeatedly on this site for obituaries: A subscription is required. Please do not continue the abusive practices. To sign up for subscription, see the ad to the right.”

    1. After reading that, I have to say that any sympathy I had for her evaporated. She’s a troll of the highest order.

  6. Their latest post made today says-
    Pstt!!! This is Applicable to All!
    Posted on Monday, 25 of October , 2010 at 9:48 am

    A subscription is required at North Country Gazette. We allow only one free read per visitor. If you abuse the privilege, your access will be denied and you will receive a forbidden notice. Subscription rates are $24.95 for six months or $39.95 per year. To sign up, see the ad to the right on this page.

  7. “We allow you to read one article for free”

    They fail to define “you”. I’m behind a NAT, along with 10,000 coworkers. Does “you” mean me, or my employer? With our single IP address does only one person here get to read one article each day before they call their attorney?

    Not that it matters, the only page I can load is their robots.txt. In it they ban Turnitin (a plagiarism detector). Does that mean they don’t mind people plagiarizing their articles? Or that their articles are plagiarized?

  8. This woman is clueless — she makes money by displaying ads on her website, so you’d think she would like to maximize her traffic in order to support whatever rates she charges.

    Does anyone care to explain the concept of circulation numbers to her?

    1. Is she not getting phenomenal amounts of traffic, right now? Maybe she isn’t so clueless after all. Shame her server melted, else she’d probably have seen a decent spike in ad revenue.

  9. So I guess their lawyers are cheaper than their web developer…

    How could engaging in hundreds of frivolous, baseless lawsuits, be cheaper than actually implementing a real paywall?

    Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of dollars to chance down people who weren’t breaking any laws, in order to extract two bucks from them? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to hire some college kid to implement an actual paywall for $500?

  10. I’m getting a forbidden where before I got the DB connection error. Gee, could it have something to do with putting ?so-sue-me at the end of the URL and clicking a bunch of articles? Hope they check their logs ;)

  11. Looks like they posted a retraction. And by “posted a retraction” I mean they yanked they article pretending as if it never existed.

  12. I spent my one-article chit reading about the ASPCA cracking down on cat abusers in the big apple. Seemed odd that a North Country newspaper would care about that, so I called on the power of the Internet to reveal:


    ASPCA claims copyright over that page, and I didn’t readily see anything granting permission to reproduce the article, particularly without attribution (and having trimmed the ASPCA information that was in the final paragraph).

    1. I came here to post the exact same thing, and it was the first article I checked. The “Feliciano and Raghunath were each charged with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty and are scheduled to appear in court” line is what set off my plagiarism detector.

      … perhaps that Turnitin line in the robots.txt file makes some actual sense.

      Since you beat me to this, I guess I’ll just point out that they’re using a free WordPress theme with the attribution stripped, because “people who provide services deserve to be paid.”

  13. One thing that cracks me up is that she has the following at the bottom of each post:
    Add this post to Del.icio.us – Meneame – Digg

    That and Google News aggregates her.

    This would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Aw hell…it is funny.

  14. I noticed they have an RSS feed. Because they don’t want people reading all their articles for free. Them tubes sure are complicated.

  15. Not to mention they offer an RSS feed! Why bother if you can only ever download one RSS article and then have to delete the feed from your reader.

  16. By “paper” you imply that they are in fact a newspaper, one that publishes something on paper. It’s not. It’s just a website.

    There are newspapers with ridiculous or counterproductive paywalls, such as the Schenectady Gazette. But they’re in the business of producing an actual newspaper. This is not a newspaper.

  17. Small town newspapers are often full of wonderful things. (I understand the North Country Gazette isn’t exactly a small town newspaper. Still.)

  18. I know this will be held for moderation since I haven’t gotten around to signing up for an account (pure laziness on my part, really), but I’ve never heard of The North County Gazette. Are you sure this is a newspaper and not just a website that collects articles and apparently opinion pieces? I’m not seeing anything to suggest that this is a “regional paper.” Of course, for all I know, this could just refer to further north than Watertown.

  19. You are allowed to read this comment for free one time. This is a subscription comment. If you read it more than once, you owe me $24.95 per time that your eye slides, weasel-like and duplicitous, across the embodied wisdom of my thoughts. Selah.

    * * * * *

    You are not allowed to read this comment at all. Stop it. I can see you, you know. I can back-track you.

    * * * * *

    You are only allowed to read this comment while eating bacon.

    1. You are only allowed to read this comment while eating bacon.

      Okay, that’s it, I’m heading to the store. Please don’t backtrace me, i’ll have ample supplies of bacon momentarily.

    2. I lol’d.

      Can we compile a list of notorious or well-known websites that use Comic Sans so I can avoid it? I want to stab myself in the eyeballs every time I see it, and I’m a college student. It’s going to be a long, awful, Comic-Sans-sighting life for my eyes, isn’t it?

  20. This is great! I have been one of her victims for years! Please crash her site daily! – Ryan Tourge

  21. I’ve seen similar policies implemented before, but usually with an actual IP lockout rather than a “we’re going to sue you if you load our masthead image on another page” message.

    I’d say it’s safe to assume these guys clearly have not talked to a lawyer that is interested in anything more than getting paid to tell them what they want to hear.

  22. This is just awesome!

    This is the ‘ad’ we are supposed to see after being interested in getting a subscription.

    It reads ‘Get exclusive access to: Special features, Special reports, the “scoop” and more! Emailled daily to your inbox’

    So, I’m supposed to want to fork out $24.95 every 6 months to be included on a mailing list? I love the information s00per-highway.

  23. This is the best article on the site:

    It’s about some freeloader who refuses to pay!


    Freeloader On Site
    Posted on Sunday, 1 of August , 2010 at 9:25 pm


    Theresa Farruggia Gallab doesn’t believe in paying for services she receives. She apparently believes the world owes her.

    For the past several weeks, she has sent harassing messages, bragging about receiving services from the website but refusing to pay for a subscription. This past weekend, we published several extensive articles and commentaries open—that is—we didn’t put them in a password protected format, allowing one free read to visitors. But, she continues.

    Due to Gallab, all future commentaries and feature work will be password protected, available only to subscribers. Due to her ongoing harassment, it was also necessary to disable to comments section. We’re sorry that one person spoils it for all.

  24. It also looks like random articles are password protected. For example this one, ironically on Open Government:

    It’s also quite possible the first time in 15 years that I’ve seen someone offer to mail a web page to you for a fee:

    Want a copy of the Special Open Government Edition of The North Country Gazette mailed to you? Send a $1 and your name and address to Box 408, Chestertown, NY 12817.

  25. Also if you do a little Googling of most of the non-opinion articles they appear to be lifted, without attribution, from elsewhere on the ‘net.

    Anyone feel like filing a DMCA takedown notice? (they can legally be filed by anyone as long as a copyright violation has actually occurred.)

    1. “Anyone feel like filing a DMCA takedown notice? (they can legally be filed by anyone as long as a copyright violation has actually occurred.)”

      No they can’t. Have you ever actually filed one? How did you write out the “I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner” without realizing you’re wrong?

  26. Of course, if several thousand machines were to spawn several hundred instances of wget all grabbing the same large picture file over and over during peak server usage hours, that would be PERFECTLY LEGAL, right?

  27. Christ, what assholes. I went over the site and saw what they offer up. Truly pathetic. There were very few stories that didn’t involve human misery or crime. I’m just glad I don’t live up there.

    I work at a privately owned 30K+ daily and our CFO said that paywalls for a newspaper are a very bad idea. His thought is that if a newspaper cannot sustain itself with advertising revenue, either print or online, it has no business publishing, no matter the economic climate or the competition. We are still going strong and have all the advertisers that we need. Well, there can always be more, but our Sunday inchage is rather idiotic, especially considering how this site (and others) likes to sound the death knoll for newspapers every time a pin is dropped. Our advertising inches and readership is better than it was 10 years ago, in fact. But if we put up a message like that, our readership would tell us to fuck off and the advertisers would go with them.

    1. Sure hope you don’t work in the news department, since your command of the language is, uh, lacking, to put it nicely.

      Then again, if you’re on the business side that’s scary, too.

  28. It’s called a autoblog. They have a plugin like WP Robot that steals content from other sites by rss feed. They should atleast put a link below the articles to the sites that created them. But they are trying to take credit for other peoples work and trying to charge for it on top of that. The site should be shut down for copyright infringement.

  29. Wish granted. I have permanently blacklisted the site on every system/network where I have the authority to do so.
    That should neatly solve all problems concerning unauthorized access from any of places
    that I control. I encourage everyone else to do the same.

  30. When you access a web page, your web browser sends a request to the server. The server can respond with the web page, or reject it. This is a standard Internet protocol. Therefore, they have already granted you access to the article by the time your browser displays it.

  31. I’ll check a few of their articles, and expect eagerly the Internet Police coming to take me to jail…

  32. You could note no offer for a subscription to the North Country Gazette is present to the right.

    The purpose appears to be to get the reader to scan the advertisements.

  33. Well, I just clicked every article on their site. But I didn’t even read one, so as I understand it I’m still within my rights and will be until I actually read one.

    Whoops — I can’t “return later,” either, I guess. Darn the luck.

    Oh well.

  34. I setup a request on a 5 second timer and eventually got ip-blocked at some point last night. Got an email from verizon this morning with the text:

    “Your customer at IP address 71.114.***.*** is abusing, crawling and causing excessive bandwith usage to my website.”

    Good times…

  35. leroybrown – you are too skilled – I just had to click a bunch of articles. – probably not enough to get a summons :(

  36. This post and most of the thread kind of seems like pointing at desperate people on the verge of losing their jobs, and then laughing at them.

  37. This “publisher” has been in jail, tried to run for public office and continues to harass people that visit her website without her “approval”. She apparently uses a form of ip blocking script that blocks out repeated IP visits after more than one attempt. Speculation is that it updates every 5 minutes.

    She has a history of criticizing public officers including fire departments, police and elected officials, under the guise of “freedom of information” – but what she won’t tell you is how she used a 4 digit pin # to gain entrance to a fire department. Through a locked door, without their permission – under the veil of “freedom”?? WTH?

    Her threats of lawsuits are baseless. She’s gone through more attorneys than most of us go through underwear. she’s always threatening to sue someone, for something – just as often as she begs for money for her website operations.

    I hear one local resident has filed a petition with the IRS to see if she’s paying taxes on the income generated from her site, and under what name. That’ll be interesting.


    She’s even trying to sell a short story on Amazon:

    Bottom line, don’t let this north country troll intimidate you. She’s exhausted every lawyer in that area, had to go on a nationwide search for someone to represent her – and from what’s being reported, not many are interested in taking her on as a client.

    Oh, that one set me to heaving with laughter. As long as they leave Britney alone, then everything will be fine.

    Next time, I will definitely remember to finish my coffee BEFORE reading the article. Honestly.

    Thank you for this.

    Alex Greene,
    so not being anonymous at all.

  39. Free as in a selection of hang-ups you can get with that. Wall Street Journal mostly-free online with ads and the occasional trigger-issue right-field merge lane. Forbes with random free-billing buttplugs where bulleted dossiers used to be. Web with EDI stapled on to crowdsource Medicaid through random state services. Occasional or reliably CPU or privacy-harmful javascript from various domains.
    They should start a little more sensibly, wringing visitors to only cut firewood Wednesday-Thursday so Tuesday can be use to set pieces to cure, or to carpool, spring for Tomcat (server) maintenance, find cats….
    Then of course extensions can be made to not let her cousin drink 8% microbrews, season jack-o-lanterns, etc.

  40. Wow. There’s no news up on that site that’s worth $39.95/year that wouldn’t already appear in the weekly free papers.

  41. wow. i thought there was something really special about the page i popped up. obviously i was wrong. tell us June, what exactly is so important you think your site can charge for the information we can get on any other site on the web?
    Hmmm. FACT let me think here June, your rag of info doesn’t even make the top 100 newspaper sites in the US!
    Hmmm. FACT let me think again..you guys ran a weekly (not a daily) newspaper from 1981 to 1994. Since then you’ve been online and only recently thought about charging for reading.
    FACT In sept 09 you had only 24,000 readers, May 2010 dropped to 8,000then back up to a measly 15,ooo as of Sept 2010. (info from reverseinternet.com And you Alexa ranking is 681,000.
    So tell us now, oh June baby, just how important your filthy little poorly written rag is to the educated masses that happen upon your site.
    If we seem to be bothering you by clicking onto you site then perhaps you should remove the site from online availability. When I go to FT.com or other financial rags that have online subscriptions they do not threaten with your stupidity. Grow up.
    by the way,……sued any fire departments lately?

  42. Oops. How much will 10 refreshes on their Error 403 page cost me? I think I better go retain an attorney to defend me here ….

  43. DMCA requires a lock. If there’s no lock, there’s no circumvention, which means no violation of legal rights. You can’t openly publish your content in an OPEN electronic medium and then complain when people view your content and don’t pay.

    You have the ability to restrict your server, throw a lock on it, and keep people out. By choosing not to, you are not doing your own due-diligence in protecting your rights.

  44. Hah her sight appears to be closed, no more ripping people off, or is she just banning IP’s that have the following format *.*.*.*

  45. They are blocking referals from this website. If you click on the link they deny you, but if you copy and paste the link it opens with no problem.

  46. North Country Gazette is operated by June Maxam. She’s been like the wicked witch of Chestertown since the mid 70s. Back then she ran a nasty sandwich shop and was known around town as “June Balloon” because of her extreme girth. She’s a nasty old hag who needs to create enemies to keep herself occupied.

  47. for Paul Coleman: even if a door is unlocked; entering a private residence is a crime. just go to your state statutes and look up the law.

  48. To the Anon who added ?so-sue-me onto the url string – she DOES check her logs, obsessively. Your voice will be heard. :P

  49. She doesn’t have any lawyer(s). She does everything pro-se, representing herself. A couple of lawyers advised her twice over the years, briefly. She spent 80 days in Warren County Jail in 2000 and another 100 days in 2002-2003, being released on 4/30/2003. This was in a case involving harassment of an older couple for a protracted period of time. She always attempts to be in control of every situation and does word-play to pretend she is. But her failed “newspapers” and failed (never-published) books about Schiavo and about a boat sinking reveal that all her claims and promises are pies-in-the-sky.

Comments are closed.