News articles should be original to be eligible for copyright

05 May 2016 - 17:58 By Ernest Mabuza

The high court in Johannesburg on Thursday held that the Copyright Act provided that literary works‚ including news articles‚ are eligible for copyright if they are original.The court found that Moneyweb had been able to prove that three of its seven articles used in part by Fin24 were original works.However‚ the court found that Moneyweb had failed to show‚ in two of the three remaining articles that had been proven to be original works‚ that Media 24's financial website Fin24 had reproduced substantial parts of those articles. The court found that only one story published by Fin24 constituted an infringement of Moneyweb’s copyright.In that article‚ the court found that Fin24 did not prove that the article it published based on an earlier Moneyweb report constituted “fair dealing”.The court passed judgment on Thursday in an application by Moneyweb‚ which had sought a declaration that the publication by Fin24 of seven articles originally published by Moneyweb infringed its copyright.Acting Judge Daniel Berger said where Moneyweb had proved its articles were original‚ the question was whether Fin24 had reproduced any substantial part of those articles.He said Section 12(1) of the Copyright Act provides that copyright shall not be infringed by any fair dealing with a literary work‚ for the purposes of reporting current events in a newspaper‚ provided that the source shall be mentioned‚ as well as the author if it appears on the work.Berger said the subsection contemplated a situation in which a newspaper published an article that had been substantially produced from another article previously published in another newspaper.“In such a situation‚ the party who has published the later article will not be liable for copyright infringement‚ despite substantial reproduction‚ if it can prove it dealt fairly with the original work‚” Berger said.Berger said the Copyright Act provided that literary works shall be eligible for copyright “if they are original”.Berger said a court would only be able to determine originality after it had weighed up all relevant considerations and made a value judgment.He said although our law still regarded time and effort spent by the author was a material factor in determining originality‚ this must not mean a mechanical‚ or slavish‚ copying of the existing material.“In other words‚ there must be sufficient application of the author’s mind to produce work that can be judged to be ‘original’.”Berger said if one had regard to Section 12(8)(a) of the Copyright Act‚ four of the articles he had found not to be original would not enjoy copyright protection.The section provides that no copyright shall subsist in news of the day that are mere items of press information.Berger said it was clear from the words used that Section 12(8)(a) was not intended to apply to all “news of the day” but only to “mere items of press information”.Berger said “items of press information” that were exempted from copyright protection included‚ in his view‚ all information communicated to the media in material form or subsequently reduced to the material form.“This would include‚ but not limited to‚ press statements and press interviews concerning ‘news of the day’ which journalists‚ and anyone else would be free to use‚ in whole or in part‚ without restriction and without authorisation being required from anyone.”Berger said in the present application‚ items of press information communicated in material form would be press conferences‚ conference calls and interviews.“In all of these instances‚ the items of information were given to the media with full knowledge that the information would be put into the public domain.”TMG Digital

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