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Using news articles as sources for another news article

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:08 pm
by snape
Hi all,
I'm looking into starting a blog/mag/news website and I want to create frequent content about relevant current affairs. For these news articles, I would have to rely on sources such as BBC, CNN, industry news web sites etc. How do I use information from these sites without infringing copyright? What sort of attribution would I need to give?
For example, could I write an article in the form of "The BBC has reported that...." and then write it using the salient facts in the article (but obviously not just copying the original)? Would I need to include a link to the original source? Could I use quotes and data published in the original? What are the rules regarding using one news source to create another?

Re: Using news articles as sources for another news article

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2020 6:52 pm
by AndyJ
Hi snape,
For example, could I write an article in the form of "The BBC has reported that...." and then write it using the salient facts in the article (but obviously not just copying the original)? Would I need to include a link to the original source? Could I use quotes and data published in the original? What are the rules regarding using one news source to create another?
Yes this sort of approach should be OK so long as you really do re-tell the story in your own words. Ideally you should rely on a number of different sources on the same story so that you are presenting an analysis of all of the facts and any speculation surrounding the event/story. The facts alone cannot be subject to copyright, but the moment you start quoting someone or a journalistic piece verbatim, make sure you use quotation marks and name the source. So taking a topical story from today's news you can say something like: "Peter Sutcliffe, 74, the infamous Yorkshire Ripper died today in the University Hospital of North Durham. The BBC News website reports that he had been diagnosed with Covid19 and had suffered a heart attack two weeks ago." The first sentence is entirely comprised of facts and you don't need to quote a source for these. The second sentence is speculation, or at least unsubstantiated comment, and so it is better to refer to the source. Obviously if the second sentence read something like: "A Hospital spokesman said today that Mr Sutcliife had suffered a heart attack two weeks ago, and had tested positive for Covid19" you would already have mentioned the source for that information and wouldn't need to say that you actually found this out via the BBC News website. In any event you only need to cite the source; there's no need to provide a link unless you wish to.

You asked about 'rules'. The best starting point is section 30 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. Just remember that you may not 'quote' a photograph in connection with a news story (see sub-section 30(2) in the link provided above).

What you want to do is exactly what most newspapers themselves do, that is to say, they regurgitate stories from other news outlets, especially where scoops are concerned.

Just to add a little background to this topic, over a century ago the kind of copyright which attached to newspapers was very light in nature: unless you copied articles verbatim without citing a source, you were unlikely to face any consequences whatsoever. This is how the first great international treaty for copyright protection, the Berne Convention, viewed the situation in 1886:
The protection of this Convention shall not apply to news of the day or to miscellaneous facts having the character of mere items of press information.
However as the print newspaper industry has been in steady decline for the last decade or so, newspaper owners have sought to squeeze every last drop of revenue they can from their output. They have set up a agency which is responsible both for issuing licences to those who wish to use their content (such as PR and cuttings agencies), and for pursuing those who use the content without a licence. And of course news organisations have been very active recently in lobbying politicians around the world, most notably the EU Commission and the Australian government, to make sure that news scrapers such as Google pay for the news they index.