'Posting RSS feed items not copyright infringement'

In precedent, court rules News1’s posting items from RSS feed not copyright infringement.

Gavel from Reuters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Chip East)
Gavel from Reuters 370
(photo credit: 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.
The 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 uses.
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 items.
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 without permission.
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 sites.
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 perspective.
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.
It 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.