According to a ruling by a federal judge, a man was legally protected when he copied and pasted an entire Las Vegas Review-Journal article, including a headline, onto another site. The judge said the man wouldn’t have to pay a Copyright Act fine because the newspaper couldn’t prove that the article’s re-posting reduced the amount of readers who would read the original article.
Wired reports the judge ruled that the man’s copy-and-paste qualified as fair use — a copyright law term that allows others to republish copyrighted material without attaining the rights. The organization that sued sought to make the man pay a $150,000 fine.
In coming to his ruling, the judge decided that too little of the article, headlined “Public Employee Pensions: We Can’t Afford Them,” could be considered “purely creative opinions” for it to be considered a creative work, and that the man was further protected because he used the story for noncommercial purposes, to create a discussion about the topic.
Fair use is determined on a case-by-case basis, so bloggers would be foolish to see the ruling as a green light to start cutting and pasting articles to their sites. Still, it’s a good bet that a whole lot of newspaper publishers are nervous about the ruling.