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Newspapers win online copyright infringement case

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  1. Content Restrictions

    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Copyrights & Trademarks         Jun 16, 2000    

Newspapers win online copyright infringement case

  • Court rules in favor of The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times in a case challenging the online posting of their stories by an independent website.

The U.S. District Court in Los Angeles held on April 5 that the website’s posting of Washington Post and Los Angeles Times newspaper articles without permission was an infringement of the newspapers’ copyrights.

Both the Post and Times make the current day’s version of their daily newspapers available on their websites free of charge. But both papers also keep an online archive of older articles, accessible for a fee.

On its website, Free Republic allowed registered users to post news articles along with commentary by the article’s poster, and later commentary by other registered users. Free Republic claimed the posting of the articles was a “fair use” of copyrighted material that facilitated discussion about the media’s portrayal of the news.

The District Court ruled in favor of the newspapers on a summary judgment motion, finding that Free Republic’s posting of news article verbatim, even with commentary added by users, did not meet the requisite elements of a fair use defense.

The court added that because the work being copied onto the website was “predominantly factual” and not a “more creative” work, there was an argument for Free Republic’s fair use defense. That interest, however, was outweighed by the fact that the website’s use of the work was not “transformative,” since it used word-for-word copies and deprived the two companies of revenues they might receive for their archived articles.

(Los Angeles Times v. Free Republic; Media Counsel: Rex Heinke and Heather Wayland, Beverly Hills) JM

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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