Asked in Copyright for Ohio

Q: Does a website have to be predominantly news reporting in order to qualify for section 107 the fair use copyright act?

For example, a website that does news reports about consumer equipment but also posts other articles and how-to's - does this mean they don't qualify for the fair use doctrine above?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Barbara Berschler
Barbara Berschler
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD

A: You ask an interesting question concerning "fair use" in the context of copyright protection. Copyright protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. So, you can write articles on any subject provided you express the "ideas" in the articles in your own words. The issue of fair use only arises if you in fact copy from someone else's work without their permission.

Do you intend to include the work of others in your articles? If so, then in order to defend against the claim by the copyright holder that you have infringed on her work, your use would need to be viewed as a fair use. Section 107 of the Copyright Act lists the kinds of uses (such as news reporting, criticism, comment, etc.) that can be done despite the exclusive rights of the copyright owner. It also lists four factors that should be examined to decide if a particular use comes within the fair use defense.

It would be good if you consulted with a copyright attorney in your area before you launch your website. In addition to the fair use question, there could be other copyright related issues to be considered.

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