Legal advice: Copyright infringement

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All the legalities concerning copyright infringement.By Briony Edwards of's team of legal experts from London solicitors Joelson...

All the legalities concerning copyright infringement.

By Briony Edwards of's team of legal experts from London solicitors Joelson Wilson.

Would you know if you were infringing copyright? Imagine that a national newspaper has written a feature on the delights of your hostelry and your pub has received a glowing review. You would like to reproduce the article on your website as an endorsement. Would you be within your rights to do so?

Such a news article will be protected by copyright as it applies to:

  • Original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works
  • Sound recordings, films, broadcasts or cable programmes
  • Typographical arrangements of published editions.

A newspaper article would be classified as a "literary work" and provided it is original it will be protected.

The newspaper would be the owner of the copyright and would have exclusive rights regarding the use and reproduction of that article.

What specifically does copyright protect against? It protects against people:

  • Copying the article
  • Renting or lending the article to the public
  • Issuing copies of the article to the public
  • Adapting the article
  • Doing any of the above in relation to an adaptation of the article.

Placing the entire article on your website will amount to copying and issuing copies to the public and would therefore amount to copyright infringement unless the owner's permission had been sought.

You may have the best of intentions in wishing to place the article on your website but there is no defence that the copyright infringement was committed unintentionally or negligently.

There are several "permitted acts" which provide for the legitimate reproduction of a copyright work when no permission has been given by the owner. It may be possible to argue that the reproduction of the article is fair dealing for the purpose of reporting current events provided the owner is acknowledged.

Certain factors will determine whether the use of the article is fair, notably in this case the proportion of the article actually used. The ideal proportion would be short extracts of the article accompanied by longer original comments. Therefore, when the whole article is reproduced it is questionable whether such a reproduction would fall within a "permitted act".

The best advice is to seek the permission of the newspaper to allow you to publish the entire article. It is more than likely that the newspaper will grant you a licence to use the article for a fee.

Alternatively, use a few choice quotes from the article and publish those on your website.

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