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Article ID: 2709
Age Group: Adult
Posted: March 5th. 2000
Fair Use, Copyright and the Pagan Net
News is news. More than that, adding a news feature, search engine, forum or column can add traffic to your web site, encourage return visitors who might like to know what's happening in their area of interest and really help to keep these visitors informed of articles of relevance to them. The Internet certainly has greatly increased both the speed in which news can be disseminated and the average person's access to a whole array of media sources. This is the good news.
Owners, creators and administrators of pagan web sites, email lists, bulletin boards message boards and chat rooms have discovered that having a regular news feature makes sense. Pagans want to know what is going on in the world that may affect them. News is important. Newspapers, magazines, journals, radio, and television news stations are increasing putting out on-line editions. It is easy to find news. It is easy to pass along this news to your friends and associates. It is easy to violate copyright laws.
Unless otherwise stated, all news available on the web is copyright protected, even if no copyright symbol or statement is included. Media outlets allow you to read the news, make one copy for your personal use and often even encourage you to send 'a copy to a friend.' Any other use, redistribution, mirroring, rebroadcast or republication of the material is a copyright violation. Some outlets even go so far as to specifically prohibit any rewritten version of an article. That's copyright law for ya! (See- U.S. Copyright Office for the complete code.)
Now we all have seen news articles being passed around in lists, posted on boards and forwarded in email. Some of you may have even noticed sites on the pagan web where articles are regularly reprinted on web pages. Are these copyright violations too?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no and sometimes we just aren't sure. Yet.
This is the part of the article where I am required to tell you that I am not a lawyer and so cannot answer your specific questions about copyright law. There are a number of good web sites out there that do discuss these issues and a list of some of these is provided at the end of this page. What follows is what I have discovered about copyright law and fair use. This is how we at The Witches' Voice manage 'Wren's Nest', get the news out and still comply with copyright laws.
Owners of copyright protected work have exclusive rights to determine how-and even if-their work can be used by someone else. But given that information is such a vital part of any society, there is a provision in copyright law that allows for 'fair use' of the material under certain specific guidelines.
Criticism and comment.
Research and scholarship.
Nonprofit educational uses.
"Oh, good!" you say. "I choose number two! I'm safe!"
Well, maybe not. In fact, probably not. And definitely not if you are reprinting an entire article- even with credit to the source. In order to keep this particular piece short and palatable, I'll direct you over to two sites that explain these 'exceptions' rather well. Come back after you look over When Copying Is O.K. and 10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained . I'll wait.
You' re back! Still think that you're 'safe'? Well, I am not the pagan police nor am I advocating that you start looking around to 'bust' anyone else on this issue either. But I do feel that I would be remiss if I did not say that violations of copyright do exist on pagan venues and that I'd really hate to see anyone get into trouble over it.
Here at TWV, we have a very good relationship with some big media outlets. Newspapers in order to provide background material or to check facts for a story in progress often contact us. We even invite them into our site with a prominent link to our "Page for The Press". Other people who have found articles on Wren's Nest that they wish to respond to point the media to our site or mention where they found the article. (We certainly appreciate that, by the way.) In short, the press has been all over our site, including Wren's Nest. We've had a few back-and-forths from time to time, but in the end, TWV and the media outlets have always worked out the details to our mutual satisfaction.
I was talking with a reporter from the New York Times around Samhain and he mentioned that he had looked over the Nest. I (somewhat nervously, I admit) hurriedly said, "We are VERY careful concerning fair use here. We try very hard to comply because we do have a good relationship with your paper and don't want to violate our professional relationship. He replied, "We noticed." (The 'we' I took to be the 'editorial we' in the literal sense.) They had looked us over and didn't have a problem with how we were handling the news section. (Whew!)
That is how we choose to maintain our relationship with all of the media outlets. The media own the material. We are allowed-being a non-profit and educational organization- to use a certain amount under 'fair use' and then point back to the source for the entire content.
In short, and this is how I interpret it, if you want to post the news from media outlets on your site, you may want to consider doing so in a similar way as we do on Wren's Nest (short excerpts with a link to the full article), paraphrase the articles like Jane does in 'Jane's Tidings' or ask the media either for permission to reprint or what their specific guidelines are for 'fair use' reporting. Reprinting AP or other news photos without permission is also a no-no. Even if you ask nice, no copyright holder HAS to grant you permission to use their work. However, if you meet the 'fair use' guidelines, you can probably still get the news out.
What about email lists? I just don't know and I wasn't able to find any specific information on this little aberration. Legally, it probably falls under the 'no redistribution without express permission' (Except as noted previously for your personal use or to a friend or two. Hundreds of 'friends' is probably pushing it.) part of the usual copyright notice. If your email list is archived or posted on the web in a 'fixed state' though, an entire article posting may land you in legal hot water.
You can argue about how all information should be free if you want. Post entire articles without permission and you may just get to make that argument in court. There is an on-going lawsuit between the 'Free Republic' and 'The Los Angeles Times' and 'The Washington Post' over this very issue. In the words of a wise old woman that I know, "So let us know how that turns out!"
Until then, if you want to provide a news service on your web site, email list or other forum, read up on the copyright laws. You can get the news out without breaking any laws if you understand what you can and can't legally use.
The good news is that these same laws also protect you and your work from unauthorized use. It's only fair.
Walk in Love and Light.
The Witches' Voice
March 6th., 2000 c.e.
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