I recently noticed that local news sites are terrible in that they transfer ludicrous amounts of data, never stop transferring data, and load an obnoxious number of ads and pop ups. As a result they are often very slow to load and reading the articles can be a challenge and is hardly pleasant. Disabling JavaScript helps but isn't a panacea.

I therefore decided to write some simple code (less that 75 lines of JavaScript and HTML) which accepts a URL (eg for a local news article), loads the content, and then: removes ads; "read more" sections; "related articles" sections; pop ups; "most read" sections; the comments section; and lays out the article nicely. The code is a single HTML file that runs locally.

My assumptions are that: if I hosted the page on a publicly accessible web server I could/would be sued for using the local news sites' content without permission; that making no money from the service would be irrelevant; that this is because of Copyright. I should be clear that the retrieving of the news articles is done by the client rather than the server.

My questions then are:

  1. Can I freely distribute the code publicly on, say, GitHub so that other people can download it and use/run it themselves without any party facing any sort of legal action?
  2. Alternatively, if I were to host the site on a publicly accessible web server, and let users enter URLs themselves - rather than hard coding in URLs to specific sites, could/would I face legal action?

2 Answers 2


Hosting copyrighted material on your servers is probably a bad idea, but software that changes how such material is displayed is likely fine – and there already are tools doing similar things.

For example, the news publisher Axel Springer sued adblocker maker Eyeo for copyright infringement in Germany in 2021, since the adblocker manipulates the contents of a web page. This was rejected by the court. (See summary by The Register which also provides US context, summary by Eyeo, actual ruling (in German)). Core argument in that case was that adblockers do not distribute protected works, and do not create derivate works of the website. They merely change how the website is interpreted by a browser. However, the details here are dependent on German copyright law and on the specific capabilities used by adblockers – it might not generalize to other scenarios.

Some browsers (e.g. Safari, Firefox) offer a reading mode that strips out all website contents except the main content, and then displays it in a more legible fashion. This strips out all navigation, sidebars, ads, and so on. So far, I don't think this kind of functionality has been challenged. This existing reading mode sounds quite similar to the reformatting tool you're envisaging. There are similar tools available in many programming languages, such as the Arc90 readability project (software, archived website), which is in turn inspired by the Instapaper app. Read-it-later apps like Instapaper and Pocket do involve a bit of a grey zone though, since they involve server-side storage of articles.


You also asked:

Can I freely distribute the code publicly on, say, GitHub so that other people can download it and use/run it themselves without any party facing any sort of legal action?

Yes you can. It's not illegal or against the news site's TOU to post or distribute code that you have the rights to that MIGHT be used by someone to do something that is against someone else's TOU.

Actually using it in a way that violates someone's TOU is another matter entirely.

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