Friday, October 22, 2010

Just the Facts: Part Two

Dear Rich: In one of your blog entries, about using AP newsfeeds, you say: 'If you're particularly paranoid about lawsuits, just take the facts.' But straight facts seldom bring raving blogvisitors. For my weblog and those of others I gather facts from daily Internet news items, but mold them to suit my satirical tone. Which means that I include personal opinions. Non-flattering ones, of course. However, I always take care to search for comparable news sources in respect to objectivity and accuracy, I'm no Perez Hilton! Although I always add a link to the source (in the text or at the bottom and also under people's quotes), I'm not always sure where the info originates from. Newsblogs do not always mention their sources, and if they do, they are grabbed from another second-hand source. The problem is also that there's a lot of 'small town news' that doesn't get to the big national and international sites and papers. Am I in any way illegal and/or fraudulous? We don't think you're fraudulous (though we love that word), and we don't think what you're doing is illegal. BTW, thanks for writing to us from Rotterdam (do you work in this building?). We love the Dutch (and we also loveDutch -- Happy 85th Elmore!)
Right, you had a question. Of course, our answer may not be applicable to you because we're not experts on copyright law in the Netherlands. Based on our limited research, Dutch copyright lawdiffers in a few ways from U.S. law (wow - we're told that the copyright symbol has no meaning in Holland). However, the Netherlands conforms to basic rules of the Berne Convention and the same basic principles apply in the U.S.and the Netherlands regarding the protection of creative expression versus protection of underlying facts. In other words, if you take the basic facts and rewrite the stories in your satirical tone, you should be shielded from any claims of infringement. In addition, because you are not in the U.S., you would not have to consider the "hot news" cases referenced in our answer as those would only apply in U.S. courts --  unless of course there is a similar line of caselaw in Holland (which we gave up trying to locate after 20 pages of Google results). So bottom line, take the facts, spin them in your style and you should be fine. 
And speaking of just the facts ... regarding last week's entry about Dragnet, we heard from the attorney for the publisher of the Dragnet theme who informed us that yes, the work is till protected. Inquiries about licensed uses are welcome and -- as we predicted -- unauthorized uses will be pursued.