If you come across an article which praises you or your business, you may want to share the article on your website. However, the fact the article concerns you does not give you the right to share it. By sharing another person’s article, you will be infringing the copyright of the author or publisher. If republishing the material is important to you, you must make sure you have the right to do so. This article sets out the copyright law relating to when and how you can share articles from other sources on your website.

What is Copyright?

Copyright protects the expression of ideas. It grants an owner exclusive rights to exploit their original work and use it in any way they wish. Copyright exists in many different works, including articles and even some tweets. When you share an article online or in other forums, you are infringing the author’s exclusive right to share the work they created with the public—this includes by posting online. Essentially, you are sharing their article on your website so others can see it. This is not allowed without the author’s permission, even where an article is about your business.

To share the article, a person other than the owner must obtain a licence, or permission, before putting the article online.

What is Your Purpose for Sharing the Article?

In some cases, you may be sharing the article to inform others of recent events concerning your business or your online community, which are matters of public interest. However, in certain circumstances, you may be considered to be ‘reporting the news’. In this case, your use of the article is protected as a fair dealing exception of the Copyright Act.

The central question is: What is your main purpose for sharing the article? If your primary objective was to report to the public on recent events or new information on past events, you might be successful in arguing you were reporting the news if you sufficiently acknowledge the author. To rely on this defence, you need to:

  • Identify the author;
  • Identify the title of the article; and
  • Ensure your use was fair.  

Fair use is determined on a case-by-case basis.  However, if your purpose was for some other reason, such as self-promotion, your copyright infringement will not be allowed.

Ask Permission or Get a Licence

The easiest way to avoid infringing copyright is to contact the copyright holder, likely being the author or publisher. This will allow you to directly ask their permission to share the article on your website. Sometimes, they may be happy to permit you to share their work, especially you are broadening their readership.

The author may also permit you to share the article if you pay to use their work. A copyright licence is an agreement where the author remains the owner of the copyright, but they grant the person who obtains the licence the right to legally exercise some of the author’s rights, like republishing the work. You might agree to pay the copyright owner an amount per use or you might obtain an annual licence for a designated fee.

Therefore, if you value using the article, you should approach the author and get a licence to use the work. A great number of authors of magazine or newspaper articles and their publishers, offer licences to use their work. If the article is of value to you, then it is likely worth paying for a licence. Overall, these strategies let you use the article without suffering potential fees in a claim for copyright infringement.

Have You Already Shared the Article?

If you are reading this and you have already shared the article on your website, take it down. You should get the permission of the copyright owner or obtain a licence and then repost the article.

If you have received an infringement claim and at the time you were unaware that you were committing an offence, you may be able to rely on innocent copyright infringement. This line of argument reduces the damages recoverable by the copyright owner. The copyright owner would only be entitled to an account of profits, meaning the profits you made from using the article. Such an argument is only available if you had no reasonable grounds for suspecting you were infringing copyright. However, merely asserting the infringement was not deliberate will not satisfy the requirements. You would have to show that you had no reasonable grounds for suspecting the use of the article would amount to copyright infringement. As such, you would need to describe which investigative steps you took to discover the ownership in the article.

Another option is to can rely on the news reporting defence. In that case, you will not have to remove the article, and you will not be liable in a claim for infringement.

Key Takeaways

You cannot share someone’s work on your website just because it is about you. This will amount to copyright infringement. If the article is important to you or your business, the first step is to contact the copyright owner. Once in contact, you can request permission to use the article. The author might allow you to do so freely or after paying a licensing fee. If your main purpose is to share current events or newsworthy items, you might have a fair dealing defence. You may also, in limited circumstances, be able to rely on a defence of innocent copyright infringement. However, this requires you to have made investigative steps to check who owned the copyright.

If you are uncertain about the defences that might apply to you or whether you are committing copyright infringement, or if you need help negotiating a licence agreement, get in touch with LegalVision’s intellectual property lawyers on 1300 544 755.

Charlotte Hale
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