[Update to this post has been made below – regarding a provision in the Copyright Act which may in fact allow this!]
Do you know of a copyright provision anywhere in the world that would allow your content (that you created), become an unrelated party’s property unless you sent them an email stating that you’d like to keep your copyright over it? If the letter that our friends over at Medianama received recently are of any indication, Thomson Reuters seems to think so. As Nikhil Pahwa wrote yesterday,
“We received an email from Thomson Reuters last evening, informing us that unless we write back to them in 14 days denying them the use of our articles, they will take the lack of refusal, as an indication of consent to use them. What’s more, they will presume that we have given them the “right to use, incorporate and distribute the Content in its Services to its subscribers and to permit such subscribers to use and redistribute the Content.””
I can’t imagine what legal basis they are relying on for such a presumption, but it surely seems very questionable. By this logic, everyone could keep sending Thomson Reuters similar notices indicating that lack of refusal to consent will imply consent, and whenever Thomson Reuters doesn’t reply to a notice, someone gets rights to use, incorporate and distribute all their content!
This would of course be as questionable as this initial notice and by no means am I endorsing this as a general means of acquiring content — but it was great to see that Nikhil Pahwa responded giving them a taste of their own medicine by sending them back a similar notice!
It does seem bizarre that such a large publishing house would take any such risks in their approach to acquiring content and it makes me wonder whether they’d actually take such a questionable approach, or whether I’m completely missing something here. Any thoughts?
You can view the letter that Medianama received as well as their response over here.
——– Update: Sai Vinod, former member of our blog, points us to the curiosity that is Section 52(1)(m) of the Copyright Act:
“Certain acts not to be infringement of copyright: … the reproduction in a newspaper, magazine or other periodical of an article on current economic, political, social or religious topics, unless the author of such article has expressly reserved to himself the right of such reproduction;”
Does this then allow wholesale copying unless expressly denied? It seems like it could certainly be ‘argued’ so at least. But, if so, wouldn’t this mean copyright has no meaning in these scenarios? I would think that such a provision couldn’t and shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that wholesale copying is allowed unless expressly denied – but then would need to come up with an alternative interpretation to this, and I can’t quite think of one.
But, for example, I took a look at today’s “The Hindu” newspaper – and I couldn’t find any express reservation of rights. Surely this doesn’t mean I can reproduce the whole newspaper under my name as a new publication!!
Other interesting questions sent in by Sai include:
(a) Scope of reproduction: Assuming Thomson Reuters ‘acquires’ content through this above-mentioned method – whether Thomson Reuters’s publications qualify as a newspaper or magazine or periodical?
(c) What about a CC license (non-commercial sharing, copying & distribution) – can this be construed to include express reservation of reproduction rights?
What could this Section 52(1)(m) mean? Would love to hear thoughts and comments on this…