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Q: Copyright Law ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Copyright Law
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: djh1967-ga
List Price: $75.00
Posted: 05 Jan 2006 09:28 PST
Expires: 04 Feb 2006 09:28 PST
Question ID: 429493
I would like to start an information website/newsletter similar (but
different focus)to the  In their website and
newsletter they reference and directly reprint polling infomation from
various organizations, news services and companies.  My question is:
how are they able to reprint this information given copyright laws -
and can I do the same with my website/newsletter?  Do they pay for it,
get permission, etc.?  Thank you.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 06 Jan 2006 10:26 PST

I had assumed, at first, that was probably taking
its information from press releases.  But in reviewing their content,
they seem to have information that was not made available in press

The only way they could get such content, as far as I know, is through
direct licensing agreements with the polling firms.  And of course,
the details of such agreements are not generally made public, so we
can't provide that sort of information as an answer to your question.

But back to the press releases.  A whole lot of polling information is
made available through press releases, and this information can
*probably* be reproduced without fear of copyright infringement

I say *probably* because almost nothing in copyright law is ever very
clear.  However, if you'd like me to cover the available information
on whether press releases are copyright-protected, I'd be glad to
provide that info as an answer to your question.

Let me know your thoughts on this.


Clarification of Question by djh1967-ga on 06 Jan 2006 11:55 PST
Thank you for your insight. As you can see I am having some difficulty
accessing how gets their information.  Your thought
on direct licensing agreements is something I had not thought of
before and may be in fact how they are able to get the polling
information. I would be interested in learning more about press
releases and copyright.  More specifically, if the information
published in a newspaper (say a poll) is copyrighted or at that point
is it consider in the public domain for "fair use" as long as it is
attributable to the original source.  Thoughts?
Subject: Re: Copyright Law
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 07 Jan 2006 09:25 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

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
Copyright Office:


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
making copies".

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:

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
press releases?

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
anyone else.

--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:*A0*J2*L2*N-1002313*Zpoll

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
release information.

Request for Answer Clarification by djh1967-ga on 09 Jan 2006 07:41 PST
Thanks for the information.  I found it to be very helpful in regards
to copyright issues and press releases.  Do you have any additional
thoughts on how the is able to reprint the polling
information other than possible licenseing agreements?  Thanks agin
for your research.

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 09 Jan 2006 08:50 PST

The inner workings of are a mystery...and believe
me, people have looked!  Here's a bit of write-up on the organization:
...Polling Report, Inc. publishes the online Polling
( Ownership information for both the
corporation (Polling Report, Inc.) and the web site
( is undiscovered.

However, the print version, The Polling Report, has been in existence
since the 1980's, and has published articles by most of the nation's
leading pollsters.  Clearly, this is an operation that is very
well-connected to the polling industry.

I have to imagine that they have license agreements with polling
organizations for use of the information, because it is hard to see
any other means by which they could reproduce the polls.

Wish I could be be more specific, but this is a private company that
is keeping its cards close to its chest.

Best of luck with your efforts in this area....looks like some healthy
competition would be just the thing, here.

djh1967-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Great service.  My researcher was very helpful in trying to answer a
very difficult and unknown question.   I never felt my researcher was
just trying to answer the question for the sake of answering the
question.  Rather the researcher asked questions to help clarify any
concerns or further questions that I might have had.  I will use the
service again based soley on this postive experience.  Thanks.

Subject: Re: Copyright Law
From: ratty_-ga on 05 Jan 2006 10:25 PST

Obviously only they can say actually how they do it.

However if you want to do it, your options are:

1. Contact the copyright holders and ask for permission. If you can
present your case in such a way that they are likely to get more sales
out of your web site, they are more likely to say yes. Note that some
companies say "no" as a matter of course.

2. Copyright laws vary from country to country. You should spend some
time learning up on the copyright laws in your country and in the
countries where the source material is produced.

3. Some countries copyright law allows for using 5-10% for Review and
similar purposes. When looking this up, look for the phrase "Fair

4. Some documents are not covered by copyright (eg the writer puts the
work into the public domain) and some works go out of copyright after
a number of years (number varies).

5. Whatever your do, don't just "take a chance you won't be found
out". Sooner or later you will be and, apart from the legal
repercussions, all your work on the web site will be wasted as well.

Links for more information:

  Stanford University Libraries - lots of great information, USA based

  Australian Fair Use and Other Copyright Exceptions

  Copyright and Fair Use in the UK (also use the links on the left)

Good luck with it


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