The internet is a platform for collating, collaborating and curating. Just think of all the major social networks and news aggregators and imagine just how much of their content is actually their own. Many online businesses in Australia are building their ideas on models that follow the same strategy. If you are following this track, this article will run through some of the legal aspects of this business model including aggregation, fair dealing and licensing.

Aggregation

You can base an entire website on the automatic aggregation of other people’s information. Essentially, a website can exist without having produced a piece of original work, but rather by aggregating from various other content creators. This system often exists without permission from the original creators.

For a website that builds their model on aggregation, they may face the issue of copyright infringement. However, infringement could be countered with the argument that use of the content was “fair”.

Fair Dealing

“Fair Dealing” is a legal term describing the ability to use content without permission. For businesses who thrive on the creation of original content, aggregation websites are a threat because external parties can monetise on the content the business has created.

The clause relating to Fair Dealing in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) runs through the situations where the use of copyright material would be authorised even without the permission of the copyright owner. This becomes relevant as one of the fair dealing provisions allows for the use of content for the purpose of reporting the news. For other websites that don’t aggregate information for the purpose of reporting the news, it would be difficult to rely on the Fair Dealing provision.

Licensing

An option for many organisations is to strike a deal with the content creator. This can take the form of a Licence Agreement that allows the aggregator to use copyright content for a royalty fee. As the interests of the aggregator and content creator may conflict, this is essentially a question of commercial negotiation.

Conclusion

Content curation and aggregation is a developing area of law that is usually played out between many of the larger online businesses. Despite major cases involving search engines, larger news organisations and subscription-based information providers, small businesses intending to operate similar business models may also face these issues. Our team of specialist online lawyers can provide you with advice on your business plans and guide you through the potential legal issues you need to consider.

Kristine Biason

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