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BH
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Category: Intellectual Property Law
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We are a tiny 501(c)3 organization which has been around for

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We are a tiny 501(c)3 organization which has been around for 49 years. For the last 10 or so years, we have put out a specialized health newsletter (about 20 pages) that is comprised of articles from business magazines and the Internet. We do not paraphrase them. We include them as written and then put an attribution to the publication and date of the article at the end. We do not ask for permission to reprint from the source. We do this even if an article is copyrighted. We are now doing this with more articles from the Internet which may or may not have copyright. I am new to the organization and am concerned this is a copyright violation for which we could get in big trouble. Two questions: If something is on the Internet, is this covered by "fair use" in an association's publication. (We do not charge membership dues nor charge for the publication if that has any bearing.) Can you please explain to me what may and may not be used (from the Internet mainly - specifically online publications) without asking for reprint permission?

bridgeth :

Anything that is published after 1923 is protected by copyright laws. A work is protected by copyright as soon as it is created in a fixed tangible medium. It need not be registered with the copyright office or have a copyright symbol on it. This applies to articles found on the internet. What your company is doing is likely copyright infringement unless the articles were written prior to 1923 or they have obtained permission from the copyright owner (generally either the author or publisher).

bridgeth :

The use that you describe likely does not fall under the "fair use" defense. That defense generally applies when the use of the copyrighted work is one either provides social commentary or parody. Copying an article in full and reprinting it without providing commentary or criticism is copyright infringement. Here is a primer on fair use for more information: http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter9/

bridgeth :

Please let me know if this answers your question or if you need further clarification.

Customer:

The information in question is medical information about hepatitis and goes to people with hepatitis c. Does that qualify for social commentary?

bridgeth :

No. Social commentary would be taking a quote from the copyrighted work and expressing an opinion about that quote in a new writing.

bridgeth :

Taking the entire work and copying it does not fall under fair use.

Customer:

Thank you.

bridgeth :

It would be best to just contact the authors and ask if you can use the work in the newsletter. Given that your company is a non-profit and this is for educational purposes, they will likely say yes.

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