Change in copyright law may make it even harder for journalists to protect their news content

A change in copyright law could make media websites even more vulnerable to having their content ripped off.

Quotes can now copied without consent under a new Copyright, Designs and Patents Act exemption introduced earlier this month. Copyright owners cannot contract out.

Media websites are already familiar with having their stories copied and rewritten by other sites. They can't do much about it, as fair dealing allows re-use of extracts concerning current events. And there is no copyright on:

  • news
  • facts
  • information.

The new exemption adds quotes to this list. And safeguards are unlikely to provide much protection. 

The exemption allows quotes to be re-used if they have been made available to the public. There is no set limit on how many quotes are used, provided it is "no more than is required for the purpose".

The user must only provide a suitable credit if it is practical to do so.

The normal rules of fair dealing also apply. So technically, someone re-using quotes for a commercial purpose could find themselves in breach of copyright law. But in reality, few media publishers will have the time or the money to use a copyright tribunal or a court. 

Although some may argue that the exemption does not change much, it certainly does not help copyright owners to prevent other people making money out of their work.

See government guidelines

Cleland Thom is author of Internet law for journalists

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