I know that in many countries republishing any web article from another website without consent is considered a form of plagery and copyright enfringement and is therefore illegal.

But I am looking to republish a couple of paid articles from wsj.com on my own website. According to the Wall Street Journal's terms of use i may be required to pay them a licensing fee first in order to get permission to reproduce the articles.

However I don't have a lot of money and therefore don't want to pay any licensing fee. So my idea was to just read every article i want to republish and then write a paraphrased version of the article to put on my website. This paraphrased article would have completely different sentences compared to the original article but would describe the same information nonetheless. Would it be legal for me to publish such an article on my website without having to pay a licensing fee to The Wall Street Journal?

I am mentioning the Wall Street Journal in this thread, but my question applies to the paid articles of other online news websites as well. So to put the question more broadly: what does US law say about reproducing a copyrighted article in a paraphrased or summarized form? Is it legal or illegal to do so without prior consent?

EDIT: Jen posted two useful links in the comments of two other law stackexchange threads that are about the same subject as this thread. However none of the answers in those threads quote the relevant part(s) from US law. I would like to know what US law says about paraphrasing an article and i would like the answer to include quotations from US law.

  • @Jen thank you for posting these links but I find the answers that can be found in those threads a bit unsatisfactory. I would like to get an answer that quotes the relevant parts from US law concerning paraphrasing an article for reproduction.
    – Maurice
    Mar 26, 2023 at 17:37
  • why is this question getting downvoted?
    – Maurice
    Mar 26, 2023 at 18:40
  • @Maurice Probably the downvoter thinks the action you propose is unethical. To the point of the question, it is common to report on other news articles. It's polite to cite the source, but I don't think that's a point of law. I think the test is whether you are reporting on a real event, or simply rephrasing an opinion piece. Reporting on events should be fine (but I don't have a reference). Mar 26, 2023 at 20:39

1 Answer 1


U.S. law says in 17 U.S.C. 102(b)

In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

So, if you do not copy wording, just information and ideas, there should not be copyright violations. I do not see the WSJ TOS mentioning a license required to summarize or rewrite their material.

It is fundamental that copyright protects the expression of ideas (among other things) but not ideas or information. The subtlety with "information" is that, in some places like most of Europe a collection of organized information of non-copyrightable material can be copyrighted as a whole.

That is not the case in the U.S. although there was an unsuccessful attempt in the Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act of 2003/4.

Also, plagiarism, appropriation of ideas without attribution, is an academic integrity issue, not a legal issue.

  • thank you for this elaborate answer. You mention that in some places like most of Europe a collection of organized information of non-copyrightable material can be copyrighted as a whole. Could you explain this a bit more? Does it mean that you're not allowed to make a paraphrased version of such an article if that version will contain the exact same information?
    – Maurice
    Mar 27, 2023 at 14:29
  • 1
    The European law allows copyright of databases containing otherwise non-copyrightable material. Like a list of phone numbers or a record of weather data. Their theory is “the sweat of the brow”, it took effort to compile and organize so it should be protected. In the US a minimum of creativity is required and how much work it is to put together a phone book of alphabetized facts doesn’t make it protectable. It doesn’t relate much to your case but I mentioned it for completeness. Mar 27, 2023 at 15:05

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