By: Staff reports
Preliminary Ruling Goes Against FreeRepublic.com
A federal judge this week rejected a Web site’s position that posting newspaper articles without permission is legally protected under ?fair use? legal doctrine, the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday.
A copyright infringement suit was filed last year by the Times and The Washington Post against FreeRepublic.com, a Web site that posted thousands of articles from the papers without permission. The preliminary ruling, delivered in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, is one of the first to answer questions about how copyright laws affecting newspapers might translate to the Internet.
Freerepublic.com, operated by Jim Robinson in Fresno, Calif., posted articles from the papers on bulletin boards, so that users could post comments about the subjects of the stories. The Web site asked that the suit be dismissed under the ?fair use? doctrine, which allows copyrighted works to be duplicated without permission in situations where the works are subject to review or commentary.
Judge Margaret Morrow sided with many of the papers’ arguments, including the claim that FreeRepublic.com’s activities damage the newspapers’ Web sites. She also rejected FreeRepublic’s argument that posting the newspaper articles was protected by the First Amendment.
Brian L. Buckley, who represented FreeRepublic.com, told the Times, ?The Judge got it wrong.? Unless the ruling is reversed, he said, ?it will have a tremendous chilling effect and will impinge free discussion.?
The case is schedueld to go to trial in June.
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