Copyright Aid Forum Index
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in   Main siteC A Main Site 

Reviews Website - Forum Post Copyright Issue

 
   Copyright Aid Forum Index -> Copyright Law

Post new topic   Reply to topic    Copyright Aid Forum Index -> Copyright Law
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
rollingon
New Member
New  Member


Joined: 29 Apr 2014
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 3:04 am    Post subject: Reviews Website - Forum Post Copyright Issue Reply with quote

Hello everyone!

I'm looking to start a website that reviews companies. I'd like to collect the information about the companies from online forums. I'd establish which traders are reputable based on recommendation posts from members across many different forums - before then making these details available to my visitors.

I'd look to rephrase the information gathered from the recommendation posts to the greatest possible extent. If a member of one forum said that company X painted a whole house for £100 and a member of another forum said that company X replaced their whole roof in two hours, my website might say something like 'Company X is noted for cheap prices and quick work.'

Is realising this idea possible from a copyright perspective? I appreciate that copyright remains with forum post authors and that reproduction rights may remain with forums themselves, but is there a workaround based on the paraphrasing? And what if my reviews happened to be slightly closer to the originals, e.g. mentioning that 'Company X is reported to have painted a whole house for £100'?

One of the selling points for my website would be something like 'Information collected from members with over 500 posts on major specialist forums.' The direct connection would be quite vague (i.e. the forums wouldn't be named), although perhaps the way around the copyright issue would be to lose this selling point altogether and so remove the 'obvious' connection to the forums? Saying this, I'm sure it would be clear where my information was sourced in several instances.

As an alternative strategy, I'd be happy to name the forums and members and add citations and direct quotes to the forums and posts if this would help with the copyright issue.

I hope that there's some way of making this website happen! If the idea means contacting all post and forum owners so as to stay legal, I'll have to have a serious rethink.

Thanks so much for offering this excellent advice portal! I apologise for arriving with so many questions!

All the very best.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
AndyJ
Oracle
Oracle


Joined: 29 Jan 2010
Posts: 1676

PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 6:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi rollingon,
As you have correctly identified, in most cases where people have posted comments on forums they remain the owners of the copyright in what they have written, and the websites merely have non-exclusive licences to publish their words. This means that the forums themselves do not have any rights over the republication of the comments, which remain with the authors of the original comments.

So if you are paraphrasing or summarising the comments from other sites, then that would not normally require permission because you are not quoting verbatim. What is more, if you did wish to quote verbatim, new Regulations which are due to be introduced shortly will clarify the fair dealing exemption for quoting other people's words. If Parliament passes these Regulations as they currently stand it will add the following to Section 30 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988
Quote:
1ZA Copyright in a work is not infringed by the use of a quotation from the work (whether for criticism or review or otherwise) provided that—
    (a) the work has been made available to the public,
    (b) the use of the quotation is fair dealing with the work,
    (c) the extent of the quotation is no more than is required by the specific purpose for which it is used, and
    (d) the quotation is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement (unless this would be impossible for reasons of practicality or otherwise).
So if you wanted to quote short snippets, that would probably be OK so long as you acknowledged your source.

Furthermore, once you had accumulated this data, it is possible that your site might be protected by something called database right.
A database is defined as
Quote:
3A Databases
(1) In this Part “database” means a collection of independent works, data or other materials which—
    (a) are arranged in a systematic or methodical way, and
    (b) are individually accessible by electronic or other means.
(2) For the purposes of this Part a literary work consisting of a database is original if, and only if, by reason of the selection or arrangement of the contents of the database the database constitutes the author’s own intellectual creation.
So you can see that, unlike the original forums from which your material will come, if you exercise a degree of care, skill and effort in selecting the material you use on your site it may well qualify for protection as an assembly of data.
I hope this helps.
_________________
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
rollingon
New Member
New  Member


Joined: 29 Apr 2014
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 2:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi AndyJ,

Thank you for such a wonderful response!

Just three follow-ups:

- If I paraphrase/summarise, do I still need to provide a source acknowledgement?

- The new regulations state that the work much be 'made available to the public.' Does this mean that I couldn't charge for the information in any form? That doesn't ruin the website idea by any means, but it'd be good to know for future reference. I presume that requiring a free sign-up to access the information would be acceptable?

- Would it be best to avoid advertising (other than in potential source acknowledgements for each quote) that the information is 'gathered from major forum X and Y' and naming X and Y explicitly? Or would this not present an issue?

Thank you once again!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
AndyJ
Oracle
Oracle


Joined: 29 Jan 2010
Posts: 1676

PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi rollingon,
No, if you paraphrase or summarise, you are not copying, and so no acknowledgement of the source is required, as you are not relying on the Section 30 Fair Dealing exemption.
The bit in the new regulations about the work having been made available refers to the original comment you wish to use. In other words, it has been published. But since that will invariably be the case because that is the most likely way you will have found the comments on other forums, then that condition will be met. A service which is only available to the public by signing up still qualifies as 'made available to the public' so long as anyone can sign up, even if they have to pay a subscription for the service. An example of information which was not made available to the public would be where it is hosted on a private intranet where only a specific group of people, for instance employees, are able to log in.
Once you decide that you want to quote rather than paraphrase, then you can do so, but for the sake of clarity it might be best to put the quoted part in "quotes" or use some other method
Quote:
Such as a quote box
to make it clear which are your words or comments and which are those from the source which you are acknowledging. I would advise you to limit your editing of other people's comments to the use of ellipses [...] to indicate that you have left out a portion which is irrelevant or superfluous.
As for how or if you should refer to the sites you obtain the comments from, this is only essential if you are quoting as per Section 30 (1ZA), where you might refer to a post as having been created by 'Critical_Buyer on the BloodyAngryConsumer.co.uk forum'. Technically because the forums etc don't have any rights over the republication (or re-tweeting) of reviewers comments, you don't really need to take their views into consideration, other than as a matter of courtesy. As you are probably aware, many sites value having hotlinks to their site from other similar sites as this can increase traffic, and so you are less likely to upset your source sites if you provide hotlinks to them where relevant, but this is by no means required to comply with copyright law.
_________________
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007


Last edited by AndyJ on Tue May 13, 2014 1:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
rollingon
New Member
New  Member


Joined: 29 Apr 2014
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 11:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi AndyJ,

Thanks for getting back to me. Your responses have really helped.

I'm now further along the development process and have another question. I'd like to include screenshots of the relevant business' home pages if this is possible from a legal perspective. I can easily wait until 01/06/14 if this helps, but I fear that images may be restricted from even the revised permissions. Are you able to offer some guidance as to whether homepage screenshots (with a link) fall within fair dealing?

Many thanks once again.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
AndyJ
Oracle
Oracle


Joined: 29 Jan 2010
Posts: 1676

PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi rollingon,
First the bad news. The Parliamentary committee which is examining the secondary legislation (there are, in total, 5 draft Statutory Instruments concerning amendments to copyright) have raised a number of detailed queries about two of them, including the one covering quotation and parody which I referred to earlier. As a result, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills has had to re-think their timetable (see their press release here) and that particular SI won't become law during this Parliamentary session. And of course even when it does appear, it may be in a different form once Parliament has had the opportunity to scrutinise it.
However the existing Section 30 already allows for copyright works to be copied for the purposes of criticism or review (of a copyright work, not of a service or product), so you should still be OK taking snippets of other people's comments and views, since they are copyright works.
But that won't really help you with using screenshots of the homepages of business websites. These are protected by copyright (the text, pictures, graphics and possibly also video and music if they are included) so you cannot just copy them without permission or some fair dealing exemption. And section 30 as it now stands won't permit this, because your review or criticism would be of the company's product or services, not its website.
On that basis it might be sensible to hold off on the screenshot idea until such time as the new SI comes into force, assuming it still contains the same provisions on quotation. However there should be no problem providing a link to a relevant webpage, if you want to assist your readers to find it. The Court of Justice for the European Union recently came to a decision (in a case known as Svensson) in which it found that linking in this way would not ordinarily amount to infringement. You can read an analysis of the judgment here.
_________________
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
rollingon
New Member
New  Member


Joined: 29 Apr 2014
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 1:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi AndyJ,

Thanks for getting back to me.

The news about the revised Section 30 is terrible! I'm happy to hold off on the screenshots, but could you please provide a little further clarification on the new quotation position?

As you say, Section 30 covers the criticism and review of copyright works and not services or products. I'd like to quote copyrighted works (the forum posts) as these highlight people's good/bad experiences with companies. This information will allow my site's visitors to make purchasing decisions. I'm no longer sure whether this usage will be covered... The quotes will be snippets (mostly no longer than a sentence), but I'm not sure if this affects matters.

All the best.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
AndyJ
Oracle
Oracle


Joined: 29 Jan 2010
Posts: 1676

PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi rollingon,
The existing Section 30 exception is fine for using short extracts from other people's reviews, forum postings and the like because although they are copyright works, they fall within the existing purpose of section 30 namely reviews of copyright works. You are effectively reviewing the reviews, so that's OK. The difference that the new proposed exception for quotation provides is that it widens the exception beyond just criticism or review. The actual key phrase in the draft SI as it stands today is " ... use of a quotation from the work (whether for criticism or review or otherwise) ..." where the word otherwise is the new ingredient.
But we don't know at this stage what the Parliamentary committee are concerned about and therefore what might change in any future version of the SI. And of course even if that part is unchanged, we have no idea how the courts will interpret 'otherwise', but it is clear that the category is expanded from its current form.
_________________
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
rollingon
New Member
New  Member


Joined: 29 Apr 2014
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 3:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks AndyJ. I really appreciate your responses.

The only issue that I'm still a little uncertain on is whether I'm really reviewing the reviews. I'm not passing comment on them per se - just including them in a database which, when taken as a whole, allows people to gain an overall impression of a business. I'm saying 'Here are some quotes which suggest that this is a good restaurant,' for instance.

It's clear how this is permitted in the revised SI, but it'd be fantastic to get just a little more clarification on how the specific usage fits the current legislation.

Apologies if it seems as if I'm labouring the point... I'm more keen than anyone for the usage to be allowable as these quotes now form the site's bedrock! But I also want to be on the right side of the law. :oops:

Many thanks once again for your time and advice.

All the best.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
AndyJ
Oracle
Oracle


Joined: 29 Jan 2010
Posts: 1676

PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you are right to be a little cautious, because the activity you have outlined has the potential to upset people and businesses who feel they are being unfairly or possibly maliciously criticized. As Tripadvisor have found to their cost, shooting the messenger may be the result, however neutral or blameless you may be. If that is the reaction of a company featured in your database, then they will no doubt explore any legal avenue for redress. While no one other than the copyright owner, or an exclusive licensee, may bring an action for infringement, using a screenshot of a company's website without permission or justification could give them the means to exert pressure on you to remove comments they dislike, and so you do need to consider this aspect carefully.
As for whether the purpose of your site constitutes either review or criticism, it might be helpful to quote from a leading authority on copyright law, Copinger & Skone James on Copyright.
Quote:
9-38 For the purposes of criticism or review. The proper approach to the construction of these expressions has already been considered. […] In Australia, the words 'criticism' and 'review' have both been given their dictionary definitions. Thus 'criticism' has been defined as: (1) The act or art of analysing and judging the quality of a literary or artistic work, etc. (as in literary criticism). (2) The act of passing judgment as to the merits of something. (3) A critical comment, article or essay. [De Garis v Neville Jeffress Pidler Pty Ltd (1990) 18 I.P.R. 292 at 299.] 'Review' has been defined as: 'a critical article or report, as in a periodical, on some literary work, commonly some work of recent appearance; a critique'. [De Garis v Neville Jeffress Pidler Pty Ltd (1990) 18 I.P.R. 292.] 'Criticism' can thus be seen as describing the 'critical application of the mental faculties', whilst 'review' describes the results of such a process. [De Garis v Neville Jeffress Pidler Pty Ltd (1990) 18 I.P.R. 292.] Criticism may be strongly expressed and unbalanced, the issue then usually being whether the use is fair dealing. [Pro Sieben Media AG v Carlton UK Television Ltd [1999] 1 W.L.R. 605, [1999] F.S.R. 610, CA. An author's remedy for unbalanced criticism which still amounts to fair dealing will lie, if anywhere, in the law of defamation: Pro Sieben.]
Copinger and Skone James 2004 14th Edn Sweet&Maxwell In my view, the dictionary definition (2) quoted above fully covers the snippets you wish to use, and therefore since 'review' is seen as the result of a process of criticism, that fairly describes the purpose of your site.
While on the subject of disgruntled companies, it is worth mentioning briefly that the other major consideration you have is the threat of a defamation claim. This is not really the place to expand on that area of law, but suffice it to say, the 2013 Defamation Act does make it more difficult for a company (as opposed to an individual) to launch a claim for defamation, but if they do succeed, then the costs can be eye-watering. On the plus side, website owners are afforded considerable protection where they merely host content posted by others (such as forums), without applying any editorial or other control, although I'm not sure whether that would apply in your case.
_________________
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
rollingon
New Member
New  Member


Joined: 29 Apr 2014
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many thanks for the clarification.

The site won't include any negative reviews, and I hope that this decision will allow me to side-step issues of defamation. I also won't be using screenshots etc. without permission as per your advice.

I think that the best long-term measures may simply be to act with general caution and take out a gold-plated legal insurance policy - just incase!

Thank you once again for all of your assistance, both on this thread and throughout the excellent Copyright Aid resource.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Copyright Aid Forum Index -> Copyright Law All times are GMT
Page 1 of 1
 

You must be logged in to post  Log inLog in
Want to join in? New members are always welcome  RegisterRegister & join the discussion

 

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more here

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group