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Are speeches by personalities like Warren Buffett copyright protected? I am not speaking about interviews to news channels but speeches usually made to the public and investors like those found in https://buffett.cnbc.com/warren-buffett-search-results/?query=Mutual%20funds. Can I use them in my websites without legal issues?

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  • It's legal to reproduce public statements in the course of reporting the news as long as that is genuinely what you are doing. (Rules are different for politicians, and allow more.) Hence it depends on the purpose of your site, who you are quoting, how much, etc. There are also other fair use exceptions, which vary from country to country.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 26 '21 at 11:54
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    "Rules are different for politicians, and allow more" What is your source for this, and in what jurisdiction does it apply? I am not aware of any special rules for politicians in the field of copyright, unless you refer to the US-specific rule that "Works of the US Federal Government" are not copyrighted. That rule only applies if the author is an officer or employee of the Federal government and creates the work "as part of that person’s official duties." See 17 USC 101. Nov 27 '21 at 1:32
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Often, but not always

If the speech is "fixed in a tangible medium" it is protected by copyright. That includes a prepared written version, and an audio recording made as the speech is delivered. Note that fixation only counts if it is done "by or under the authority of the author". Someone else recording or writing down the speech does not make it fixed unless the author has directed that this be done, or at least authorized it.

However, if the speech is neither written down, nor recorded, nor in any other way "fixed" then it is not protected until it is fixed. Someone who took notes or simply memorized the speech would be free to use it as long as it is not protected.

All the above is true in the US, and in all other countries that adhere to the Berne Copyright Convention or the TRIPS Agreement. Almost all countries adhere to one or both of those.

In many cases there is an exception to copyright for news reporting, but not always. In the US this is covered under fair use and is subject to the normal four-factor test for fair use. In the UK this is covered by fair dealing. In many countries there is a specific exception for news reporting, but such exceptions generally have limits, and the individual law's terms will matter.

US Law on Fixation

17 USC 101 provides that:

A work is “fixed” in a tangible medium of expression when its embodiment in a copy or phonorecord, by or under the authority of the author, is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration. A work consisting of sounds, images, or both, that are being transmitted, is “fixed” for purposes of this title if a fixation of the work is being made simultaneously with its transmission.

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  • FWIW, as far as the website content, there are limits claimed in the CNBC Terms of Service at cnbc.com/nbcuniversal-terms-of-service: "Your use of the online services shall be limited solely to your personal and non-commercial use" and "You may not either directly or through the use of any device or other means copy, download, stream, reproduce, duplicate, archive, distribute, upload, publish, modify, translate, broadcast, perform, display, sell, transmit or retransmit the online services or Content unless expressly permitted by NBCUniversal in writing." Nov 27 '21 at 0:31
  • @jeffronicus That is a matter of agreement, not copyright, and so does not fall within the scope of the Question. Also the ToS page reads: "Each time you access and/or use sites or services, you agree to be bound by these Terms of Service and any additional terms that will apply prospectively to you." That sort of "contract of adhesion" or "browser-wrap" agreement simply does not result in a binding agreement at all in many jurisdictions. Unless the user is required to provide affirmative assent to the terms, as by clicking a button or ticking a checkbox, the ToS is empty air, legally. Nov 27 '21 at 1:06
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    @jeffronicus In any case the would-be re-user could get the speech from another source. Nothing in the question said a re-user would copy it from the CNBC site in particular. Nov 27 '21 at 1:08
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    Yes that is correct observation. These speeches can be obtained from other sources.
    – Kannan
    Nov 27 '21 at 2:20
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Yes, they are copyright protected.

No, you can’t use them on your website (subject to the normal exceptions of fair use/fair dealing or with permission).

In the US copyright exists as soon as a literary or artistic work is fixed in tangible form - a recording of a speech qualifies.

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    But was the speech fixed in a tangible medium of expression (to use the US criterion)? E.g. the Wikimedia perspective on this question distinguishes between prepared speeches and off-the-cuff remarks. Of course, recordings of the speech are clearly subject to copyright and cannot be used without permission.
    – amon
    Nov 26 '21 at 10:40
  • @amon the OP has a link to it - of course it was fixed in tangible form.
    – Dale M
    Nov 26 '21 at 11:08
  • You can reproduce copyrighted remarks of others in the course of reporting the news, but there are specific requirements. cmsimpact.org/code/set-principles-fair-use-journalism
    – Stuart F
    Nov 26 '21 at 11:55
  • @dalem I think the link is the subject of the question, i.e., is the linked page a copyright violation?
    – bdb484
    Nov 26 '21 at 16:19

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