'Posting RSS feed items not copyright infringement'
In precedent, court rules News1’s posting items from RSS feed not copyright infringement.
Gavel Photo: REUTERS/Chip East
The News1 website did not infringe the copyrights of Tomer Ofaldorf by posting
items from his RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed, Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court
Judge Oshrit Rothopf ruled on Wednesday.
The decision sets a precedent in
Israel and touches on an issue that is still murky internationally.
court did not hold that posting items from another’s RSS feed was never
copyright infringement, but did decide both that there were categories of
posting that were legal and that News1’s postings had fit into the legal
The issue has never been ruled on before in Israel and commentators
internationally are split so far on the issue and what factors to consider in
determining the issue.
Ofaldorf claimed that News1 had posted both visual
items and written content from his RSS feed, including in some cases, changing
aspects of the posted items.
News1 did not deny that it had posted
content from Ofaldorf’s RSS feed, but claimed that because of the nature of RSS
feed and Ofaldorf’s use of it, its posting of those items, even without his
permission, did not violate copyright law.
News1’s precedent winning
argument was presented by the law office of Yoram Muszkat.
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 sent to them and aggregated into a standardized format,
including everything from blog entries to news headlines to audio and video
Under Israeli and most Western copyright law rules, any written
content, even if posted in a new technological or electronic format, still
potentially grants the writer a copyright to the content, as if it had been
written in a traditional book format.
Ofaldorf 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 there is still no special right to those
who receive the content to post it themselves or do anything with the content
besides view it themselves.
He essentially argued that there was nothing
special about RSS feed or Ofaldorf’s use of it that would allow posting it
News 1 had its own copyright law expert, Dr. Yuval
Dror, who testified that RSS and Ofaldorf’s use of it 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
Dror also said 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 overall
agreed with and ruled in accordance with Dror’s and News1’s
Noting that News1 had given credit to Ofaldorf anytime it
posted his items and that Ofaldorf could have chosen other less automatic and
less aggressive ways to distribute his content, the court found that Ofaldorf’s
use of RSS made it fair for others to expect that he did not object to their
reposting his items.
The court added that once Ofaldprof informed News1
that it did not have his permission to post from his RSS feed, News1 immediately
took down the posts.
The giving of credit and immediate removal upon
being given a warning was also critical in the court’s assessment of the good
faith of the parties.
In fact, the court found less good faith on
Ofaldorf’s part as he appeared to list contradictory purposes and to change his
answers under cross-examination about his decision to use RSS feed.
remains to be seen how and to what extent this decision will impact the debate
in other nations.
News1’s lawyer, Muszcat, said the issue was still an
open one in most countries and a review of various commentators on the issue
found different views being taken, with no one citing definitive trends in
related legal decisions.