Posting RSS feed items not considered copyright infringement

RSS

Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court Judge Oshrit Rothopf has ruled that a News Website News1.co.il did not infringe Tomer Apfeldorf’s copyright by posting items from his RSS feed.

Apfeldorf, a lawyer and blogger, claimed that News1 had posted both written content and visual items from his RSS feed; in some cases changing aspects of the posted items. News1 did not deny that it had posted content from Apfeldorf’s RSS feed, but claimed that because of the nature of RSS feeds and Ofaldorf’s use of this technology, the posting of such items, even without permission, did not violate copyright law.

News1 argued that RSS is a family of Web feeds – data formats used for automatically providing Web users with frequently updated content without their having to search for the content once they have subscribed to the “feed.” Those who subscribe via a weblink from the online site from which they wish to receive the feed will get regular updates aggregated into a standardized format and sent to them. The feed may include anything from blog entries and news headlines to audio and video items.

Apfeldorf had a copyright law expert, Gad Oppenheimer, testify on his behalf that News1’s posting of items from his RSS feed violated copyright law. Oppenheimer emphasized that the purpose of RSS is to maximize distribution and ease of receipt of content from the content creator to others, but that its use does not grant a special right to those who receive the content to post it themselves or to do anything else with the content other than to view it. Oppenheimer essentially argued that there was nothing special about RSS feeds or Ofaldorf’s use of them that would allow posting content without permission.

However, as an expert witness for the defendant, Dr. Yuval Dror testified that RSS and Ofaldorf’s use of the technology did remove the normal constraints of copyright law. According to Dror, using RSS and particularly sending full content through a feed and not mere headlines, is a sign that the content creator wants to maximize the exposure of his content, including by having those who receive the RSS feed post it on their own sites. Dror also argued that the creators of RSS were innovators most concerned with free distribution, sharing and posting of cultural content, not with aggressively defending copyright considerations.

The court accepted Dror’s argument, noting that News1 credited Apfeldorf each time it posted his items, ruling that others could expect that he did not object to their reposting his items, and doing so was fair use. Furthermore, the court noted that once Apfeldorf informed News1 that it did not have his permission to post from his RSS feed, News1 immediately took down the posts. Both giving credit and immediate removal upon receiving a warning were taken by the court as indicative that News1 was acting in good faith.

It is important to note that the court did not hold that posting items from the RSS feed of a third party was never copyright infringement.

The case: CF 45536-07-11 Apfeldorf v Itzhak et al. – ruled by Oshrit Rotkopf.

COMMENTS

I think that Judge Rothopf got this right. Using RSS feeds implies a waiver to recycle the material with credit.

The present blog article is a reworking of a piece by Jeremy Bob that was published on the Jerusalem Post website – see http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=303992
I think it is fair use. I generally obtain and review the original court decisions which are public domain, but I do not believe that news facts are subject to copyright – although am, of course familiar, with arguments to the contrary by the suffering newspaper industry. I have both removed Jeremy Bob’s opinions and analysis and credited the source. I consider this to be fair use and indicative of good faith.

Copyright Law really does need to be reevaluated in the modern world. The Current Israel Law provides for very high compensation per infringement without proof of damage. This is often unreasonable and inappropriate  There is a general lack of consistency in copyright rulings by the courts.

One Response to Posting RSS feed items not considered copyright infringement

  1. Benny Attar says:

    If reposting content on my own site constitutes copyright infringement, what would be the legal status of posting a link to the original site? For the reader, this amounts to the same, (give or take a mouse-click) unless the issue of site hosted advertising is taken into account.

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