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Court ruling: Linking and quoting from online articles is legal.

Michael Geist writes today at his site about a recent court ruling that is important for all of us bloggers, no matter what political ideology or point of view we write from. Basically, the Federal Court of Canada dismissed copyright infringement claims against the website Free Dominion from the National Post and a photographer (who I believe also was working for the Post, though that’s a bit hazy in the article) because of this:

On January 10, 2008, an eleven-paragraph column by National Post columnist Jonathan Kay was posted to the site. When the Post complained in April 2010, the column was replaced with shorter excerpt that included the same headline along with 3 full paragraphs and one half-paragraph. A month later, a site user posted a link to a photograph that was posted on the photographer’s website. The photograph itself was not posted as only a link was used…

The court dismissed the Post claim over the article excerpt on two grounds. First, it ruled the amount of copying involved did not constitute a “substantial part” of the work and therefore there was no infringement. While many assume that anything more than a sentence or two goes beyond insubstantial, the court’s ruling sends a signal that a more liberal approach is possible. If the decision is upheld (an appeal seems likely), it will have significant implications for copying in a wide range of venues including collective licensing for educational institutions.

Second, the court also ruled that even if the copying was substantial, it was still non-infringing since it qualified as fair dealing. The court noted that fair dealing should be given a broad interpretation and that the “news reporting” category could include posts of excerpts to an online discussion forum.

…The fair dealing analysis is crucial since it affirms that copying several paragraphs of an article to report on its contents is itself news reporting. The decision alleviates legal concerns for bloggers, news aggregators, and other online sites that often capture a news headline along with a paragraph or two to provide the reader with an introduction to the article’s contents.

Basically, the court ruled that what Free Dominion did (and what I have just done in quoting Michael’s article) is perfectly legal. I’ve always been very careful in the length of an article I quote when I want to comment on an article I see online but wish to quote here. I’ve always quoted no more then a paragraph or 2 if possible, to avoid the sort of thing Free Dominion went through; I believe you’ll find others in the blogging world have done the same thing for the same reasons.

Now, I’m obviously no fan of Free Dominion, but many bloggers quote from news articles when we write our thoughts – so this is, as Michael noted, an important ruling for all bloggers and online news aggregators, websites etc that quote from news articles when involved in political discussion and debate and using them to highlight an argument/idea and so on.

This ruling doesn’t mean I’ll be going “wild” and quoting articles in full, however – I think one should try to have original thoughts or ideas when you’re discussing something, and that quoting an article should be used as part of the blogpost, and not just parroting it back – that in my view is just boring repetition.


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