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Is it legal to quote some of the text from a message board, or would this be copyright infringement?

Minotola, NJ |

If one wanted to write a blog post about a discussion on a message board or online forum, is it okay to quote from said forum? Can you quote full text from individual posts (say, a question asked, followed by three people's responses, even if there were twenty responses, so you're using only a portion of the text)?

If not, can you post a blog entry describing the online discussion, for instance saying that Suzie said that she knitted a sweater for Ryan, and Mallory posted that Suzie should stay away from him, but Kelly is okay with Suzie giving gifts to her brother? In other words, posting *about* the discussion, rather than quoting it verbatim? Can you quote any portion, if that portion is small? Does it make a difference if the site has a Terms of Service that disallows copying?

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

I'll just add one point to my colleague's excellent explanation.

Copyright protects the *expression* of an idea, but can't protect facts. If the original expression is

Ryan: That sweater that Suzie knitted for me is the bomb.
Mallory: It makes you look fat. Anyway if you don't stay away from Suzie I'm going to break up with you
Suzie: I don't see any ring on your finger, loser!

copying verbatim in whole or in part would infringe on the copyright of the original author. Assuming, however, that this is not a work of fiction and is an accurate account of the facts, you could probably comment that "Suzie is interested in Ryan, which makes Mallory jealous" without infringing on the copyright of the source. The idea that Mallory is jealous is not protected by copyright.

If the terms of service prohibit such commentary or disclosure regarding the content of the site, of course you can't do that. And if the subject matter is fiction and the characters of Ryan, Mallory and Suzie are someone else's creative work, then you might be violating that author's right in derivative works by expanding on those characters.

As always, if you're just not sure, listen to that apprehensive inner voice and consult with an IP attorney. It's a lot less painful than getting sued.

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Posted

Copyright Infringement and whether a "fair use" defense applies to such a claim based on someone else's work, is fact-specific and depends on an analysis of 4 fair use factors, one of which is how much you use of the original work.

If the original work's site expressly disallows copying, then you're on notice that that site claims all rights to its content and that you can't copy it. you can't a definitive answer from anyone who hasn't reviewed the original work and your proposed work, sp see an IP lawyer.

Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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1 lawyer agrees

Posted

What my colleagues have said here has been said well, but in short, you can almost certainly do it.

You may find these two links helpful. These are issues with which I am very involved.

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