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Is it legal to use partial data or information written in Amazon's customers reviews and use it in product review site?

San Francisco, CA |
Filed under: Internet law

Example: If I analyze the customer reviews for the same blender on both Amazon and Best Buy. Assume 3 of 10 reviewers on Amazon said that the blender was "too loud" and 5 of 10 reviewers on Best Buy said the blender was "too loud". Is it legal for me to aggregate/summarize that information and say 8 of 20 people thought the blender was "too loud"? If Amazon's customer reviews are not copied verbatim is it copyright infringement?

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

Q: "Is it legal for me to aggregate/summarize that information and say 8 of 20 people thought the blender was 'too loud'?"
R: Yes.

Q: "If Amazon's customer reviews are not copied verbatim is it copyright infringement?"
R: The answer depends on how much and how many of the reviews are copied. Only your own copyright attorney can evaluate what you intend to do and provide you with actionable advice.

The above is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.

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2 comments

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Legal from copyright standpoint to aggregate but not necessarily legal if the review is obsolete and you knew or reasonably should have known it's no longer applicable and it is now false as derogatory. Expect lots of hassles from manufacturers unless you have superb timely monitoring. i have no doubt someone like Google or Yahoo could aggregate and do it on a real time basis. I doubt you have that capability and so I see this as relatively risky as a business model unless you automate it and keep it current and even then expect you to have huge expenses to remove obsolete ratings.

Daniel Nathan Ballard

Daniel Nathan Ballard

Posted

I see no legal requirement to publicly maintain current aggregate data on a product review. So long as the data was accurate when published and the publication date of the aggregate data can be readily determined by a viewer then I see NO basis for any claim against the aggregator by the manufacturer of the reviewed product.

Posted

In addition to Attorney Ballard's excellent response, I also add that it does not appear that Amazon claims to own the copyright to reviews posted by customers on its website. In particular, Amazon's terms of use state that persons who post reviews on the website "grant Amazon a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, and display such content throughout the world in any media." Such a license would be unnecessary if Amazon owned that content. So it appears that the copyright is owned by the persons who posted them.

This answer is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as specific legal advice regarding your question. The answer could be different if all of the facts were known. This answer does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Well, Amazon is just protecting itself and yet not bucking heads with customers over customer ownership of reviews. Should Amazon find profit in selling reviews, that might well change to be more protective. So, be diligent and current.

Posted

To add to my colleague's responses, I'd note that no matter what Amazon's site or Best Buy's site says at any given time, those sites aren't static, so anything you attempt to aggregate would necessarily be time sensitive and subject to any change in those site's content.

Thus, reliance on any other sites would be a hazard for you, not because of copyright infringement risk, but because of the likely inaccuracy of your analyses as those sites add reviews.

Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.

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Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

And products change and producers don't like bad reviews that relate to product no longer sold. So aggregating reviews carries risk of being hassled by manufacturers about obsolete data.

Posted

The three above answers are all very good. I just want to add that, if you plan to develop a website that does this kind of aggregation, and you are serious about launching it, you should strongly consider consulting a lawyer to help you design your service to be consistent with the various legal regimes governing media. If you are paraphrasing any reviews, that raises copyright issues. If you allow users to add reviews or aggregate their own, that raises DMCA and CDA issues. If your information becomes out of date or incorrect, that raises potential defamation issues. Tread carefully.

Please note: this is not legal advice, should not be relied upon, and I am not your lawyer unless you hire me. Good luck!

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1 comment

Molly Cristin Hansen

Molly Cristin Hansen

Posted

I would simply add that in the realm of reviews, there are also federal rules governing truth in advertising and endorsements. So, Asker should be aware of these bodies of law too.

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