Thanks for getting back to me on this rather tricky question of yours.
I'm happy to address the topic of press releases and copyright, but
let me point you to the disclaimer at the bottom of the page -- I am
not a legal professional, and Google Answers is no substitute for
professional legal advice, so take everything below with an
appropriate grain or two of salt.
That said, let's talk about freeware!
A software program is a written work which is just as copyrightable as
a book or poem. The author of the software does not need to do
anything special to copyright it...the mere act of creation is all
that is required. Write something down, and it's pretty much
automatically protected by copyright.
You can read more about copyright protections from the FAQs at the US
When is my work protected?
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and
fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or
with the aid of a machine or device.
Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the
moment the work is created.
So, why is it that freeware is free? And reproducible? And,
essentially, unemcumbered by the normal protections afforded by
The answer is obvious from a common-sense point of view, but is also a
bit subtle from a legal perspective.
Freeware is freely available for the simple reason that the author of
the freeware has made it so. By posting a piece of software on a
freeware site, or otherwise identifying it as freeware, the author of
the software is saying, in essence, "Anyone can use this material, and
I relinquish my normal rights as an author that prohibits you from
Some freeware has a statement attached to it that explicity includes
language like the above.
But often, the statement is implied rather than explicit -- the
presence of the software on a freeware site, or its identification as
freeware, is enough to carry the implication that normal rules of
copyright protection do not apply.
There's a site from the University of Texas with a nice discussion of
"fair use" that can add some additional perspective here:
FAIR USE OF COPYRIGHTED MATERIALS
In particular, note two things. First, the general characterization
of the infuriating murkiness of "fair use":
What is fair use?
We would all appreciate a clear, crisp answer to that one, but far
from clear and crisp, fair use is better described as a shadowy
territory whose boundaries are disputed, more so now that it includes
cyberspace than ever before. In a way, it's like a no-man's land.
Enter at your own risk.
Second, is their list of things that clearly *can* be freely used:
1. Is the work protected?
Copyright does not protect, this Policy does not apply to, and anyone
may freely use:
--Works that lack originality
--logical, comprehensive compilations (like the phone book)
--unoriginal reprints of public domain works
--Works in the public domain
--Freeware (not shareware, but really, expressly, available free of
restrictions-ware -- this may be protected by law, but the author has
chosen to make it available without any restrictions)
--US Government works
--Ideas, processes, methods, and systems described in copyrighted works
Notice that freeware is right up there with public domain works, as
material that can be freely used by anyone.
NOW...what does all this have to do with your question about polls and
As far as I know, there has not been any case law on the matter of the
copyright status of press releases. However, there is a very strong
rationale for treating press releases pretty much like freeware, that
is, treating them as materials that are freely made available for
widespread distribution and use, and are, as a consequence, not
subject to the typical protections of copyright.
In other words, press releases carry a very similar sort of implied
license as freeware -- "here's material that I created that I want you
to use, so I am waiving my usual rights as an author and granting
permission for this to be freely copied".
Like I said, I did not see any specific case law on this topic --
probably because no one issuing a press release would ever think to
sue someone for copyright infringement. It would be like advertising
an "open house" to sell your property, and then complaining that the
people who show up are tresspassing!
In the absence of any concrete legal precedence on this issue, there's
only informed opinion to turn to, but there's a worthwhile discussion
on the copyright status of press release material here:
Copyright status of press releases
The site makes clear that there are differences of opinion on the
topic, but the weight of evidence certainly indicates that press
releases are regarded as public property:
"Once that press release or PSA is sent out, you cannot take it out of
circulation, and you can't control its use. It has been publicly
distributed, and it is probably public domain under the copyright law.
Anyone who has it can use it for any purpose." (D.R. Yale and A.J.
Carothers, The publicity handbook : the inside scoop from more than
100 journalists and PR pros on how to get great publicity coverage :
in print, online, and on the air, Chicago, Ill.: NTC Business Books,
2001, p. 66.)
So, what's the bottom line on all this? I would sum it like this:
--You're probably on prety safe ground in using any material from
press releases on your site, whether from polling groups, or from
--There is no guarantee that I (or anyone) can provide that a polling
company won't take exception to your use, and complain about
infringement. However, and for the reasons already stated, it seems
unlikely that they would complain about such use, and even less likely
that they would prevail if the complaint led to a lawsuit.
--Although making use of press release material is probably okay, this
line of reasoning does not extend to news articles themselves. An
article in a newspaper, magazine, website, etc. is almost always
copyrighted material and should be treated as such.
As for actually finding poll-related press releases, your best sources
are probably to peruse press-release websites such as Businesswire:
Here's a link to recent Businesswire press releases with the word [
poll ] in the headline:
A similar service is PR Newswire:
and you can also conduct a regular Google search on [ poll "press release" ]:
I trust this information fully answers your question.
However, please don't rate this answer until you have everything you
need. If you would like any additional information, just post a
Request for Clarification to let me know how I can assist you further,
and I'm at your service.
All the best,
search strategy -- Used bookmarked websites for copyright and press