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Let’s say I want to create a website that helps people troubleshoot a topic. I get my facts and information from site A, and use that info to write my own articles (Not copying word for word, but stating the same ideas).

Site A has this policy: "Any duplication or use of images, diagrams, or text, or other electronic or printed publications is not permitted without the prior written agreement by Site A."

Copyright.gov says this: "Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed."

So am I allowed to take the facts and information from Site A and use it on my own site? I will not take their images or interpretation of the facts, but just the facts themselves. And I will write my own articles and "fluf" based on the facts.

Note: I live in the US


EDIT:

I tried to add this as a comment but it was too long.

So my current understanding is that facts in lists of obvious order cannot be copyrighted, but their explanations or instructions can be.

So can I do this?

SITE A:

How to fix a black screen on your computer

Fixing a black screen can be quite easy! Just follow these simple steps.

  1. Restart by holding down the power key for 5 seconds (This can help refresh the system if something is not working right)
  2. Remove the battery, then replace it (This can help remove all background operations)
  3. Throw it out the window because there is nothing else you can do to fix it

My Site

This guide will show you how to fix a black screen on your computer!

  • Try holding down the power button for five seconds to reset the device.
  • If that does not work, try removing, then replacing the battery. Doing this can help stop any tasks your computer may be running.
  • If the above steps don't work, bring your computer to a repair shop for further analysis.
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  • What is an example of a "fact" you are taking from site A? A football statistic? Raw data? Nov 14, 2021 at 22:51
  • @BlueDogRanch It doesn't really matter, no fact is protected by copyright. Nov 15, 2021 at 0:18
  • Are you saying you plan to paraphrase others' work? (rewrite each sentence in your own words but the same basic meaning)? Nov 15, 2021 at 1:47
  • @DavidSiegel My point it that the OP's idea of what a fact is may not be accurate. Nov 15, 2021 at 2:48
  • A close paraphrase will not, as @Harper correctly implies, avoid copyright infringement. I discuss this in m y answer. Opinions are not facts in the copyright sense. Nov 15, 2021 at 14:49

1 Answer 1

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copyright.gov is the oficial site of the US Copyriuht office, and is here quoting 17 USC 102(b) which is the actual copyright law. Under it, copyright protection extends to expression, but not to any idea, etc.

However, these are not in conflict, because using information or ideas from a work to create a new and original work is not "duplication or use of images, diagrams, or text, or other electronic or printed publications" so Site A is also correct.

However, a close paraphrase where the words are changed but the sentence and paragraph structure of a text is followed, presenting the same ideas in the same order in sentences of the same structure in the same order, may constitute a derivative work, and thus a copyright infringement.

Wikipedia describes "close paraphrase" as: "... the superficial modification of material from another source." It goes on to give an example:

Facts and ideas cannot be protected by copyright, but creative expression is protected. The test of creativity is minimal.

Hilaire Belloc's 1897 More Beasts: (for Worse Children) illustrates creative expression in his description of a llama:

The Llama is a woolly sort of fleecy hairy goat, with an indolent expression and an undulating throat; like an unsuccessful literary man.

If this somewhat dubious source was used for the article on llamas and was still protected by copyright, it would be acceptable to say that the llama is an animal with a shaggy coat, and perhaps that it has a long neck. These are facts. But use of the phrases "indolent expression" and "undulating throat" might violate copyright. The original choice of words is part of Belloc's creative expression. Going further, the simile "like an unsuccessful literary man" is also creative, and is also protected. A clumsy paraphrase like "resembling a failed writer" might violate copyright even though the words are entirely different. More than the facts have been copied.

So when the question reads:

am I allowed to take the facts and information from Site A and use it on my own site?

There answer is: "Yes, but the rewriting must be more than superficial, A mere substitution o synonyms will not do, the expressive structure must also be rewritten."

However, if the expressive structure is simply a list of facts in an obvious order, such as alphabetical or chronological there is no copyright at all on either the words or the structure. see Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991)

edit

The scenario added by edit looks reasonable. In this case it would seem that the operator of "my site" has probably not infringed the copyright on "Site A".

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  • Thanks so much for the response. Just to ensure I am understanding this correctly, facts cannot and are not copyrightable, but the way and wording these facts are presented are. For example, if the following appeared on Site A, and I duplicated it (Adding in my own explanations), that would not be copyright infringement, correct?? <<< How to fix a black screen: 1. Try restarting (It sometimes works) 2. Hold the power button for 3 seconds (To reset the device) 3. Throw it out a window (Because it’s hilarious and your out of options)>>> Nov 15, 2021 at 1:34
  • @Greenreader9 Item 3 in that list is not a factual statement, but an opinion or a joke. Copying it might be infringement..Otherwise, yes. Nov 15, 2021 at 1:42
  • @Greenreader9 part of the problem here seems to be the website's overbroad description of the protection: "Any ... use of ... text ... is not permitted without the prior written agreement by Site A." Taken literally, this means that they don't give you permission even to read the text, but that's surely not their intention. Even if this is meant literally, however, there are many uses for which you do not require their permission, so their refusal to grant it does not stop you from using the text in those ways.
    – phoog
    Nov 15, 2021 at 14:00
  • @phoog Quite true. The word "use" has several senses. I suspect the site means it in a sense of "re-use", that is, actual reproduction of the text. But it can easily be read as claiming more than that, indued more than copyright law would permit. Nov 15, 2021 at 14:53
  • @DavidSiegel, Can you check out the edit I made? I tried to add it as a comment but it was too long. Thanks! Nov 15, 2021 at 20:32

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