Yesterday’s New York Times article Copyright Challenge for Sites that Excerpt by Brian Stelter explores the boundaries as to what is acceptable with regard to excerpting from news stories by other websites, and what is causing news publishers to become uncomfortable. When is it acceptable to quote the majority of an article in a blog post? Is it okay to take a whole RSS feed from a news source (which they are freely supplying), and republish it on a website with additional advertising?
It seems that it all depends on who is doing the republishing. Prominent free news aggregator Google News seems to be accepted, and the Huffington Post is popular and therefore drives traffic to the news sites although that is even sometimes in question. What is very questionable are the “no name” sites that pull in the news content but send little traffic back to the news sites.
According to the article:
some media executives are growing concerned that the increasingly popular curators of the Web that are taking large pieces of the original work — a practice sometimes called scraping — are shaving away potential readers and profiting from the content.
With the Web’s advertising engine stalling just as newspapers are under pressure, some publishers are second-guessing their liberal attitude toward free content.
“A lot of news organizations are saying, ‘We’re not willing to accept the tiny fraction of a penny that we get from the page views that these links are sending in,’ ” said Joshua Benton, the director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. “They think they need to defend their turf more aggressively.”
The article goes on to explain that copyright infringement lawsuits in the U.S. are increasing. Copyright law in the U.S. is unclear (or perhaps more accurately, difficult to interpret) as to what exactly constitutes fair use in these situations.