Does Reporting Needed to Include Copyright Material When It Comes to Current Events?July 19, 2021
Newsletters, or news letters as they are often called, are very important for news reporters. They must constantly be in the lookout for fresh angles on story subjects they have decided to investigate and present. For example, if a local story involves a murder mystery, a news reporter will do everything in his power to learn who the killer is and what the victim’s motives might be. He will try to find witnesses to corroborate his story, he will interview people that were not involved in the event, he might videotape the crime, he might want to take photos, etc. This is all part of the reporting process.
News journalism is a commercial business of getting, reporting, recording and analyzing newsworthy data about people, events and problems of global, national and local interest to newspapers and other media organizations. It usually involves two separate but parallel activities, namely: (a) investigative reporting and (b) interpretation and reporting of newsworthy data about such events. In a pure news story, the reporter is concerned only with obtaining facts, while the news organization is primarily concerned with how those facts are reported, interpreted and put together to make the news. But in news journalism as in other forms of journalism, objectivity is not accepted as an overriding value.
Commercial sense, as regards news reporting and interpreting current events, would say that the primary function of the newspaper or magazine is to provide information to its readers and to educate them in respect of current events and current affairs. A newspaper or magazine is primarily interested in earning profit from its subscribers and advertisers. Therefore it may not necessarily follow that its editors or reporters should necessarily act in the wider interests of their employers, their proprietors, their partners in the enterprise and their audience. They may choose, in the public’s interest, to focus on some matters in a way that will advance their own personal interest or the wider interests of their publishers.
That is not to say that the reporting of news events by newspapers and magazines does not sometimes have some element of bias or favoritism. It very often does. And if there is any consistency in the treatment of different news items and subjects it is to be found in the pattern of favoritism. This pattern of favoritism is not widespread in all newspapers and magazines, of course, but it does exist. In other words, whether the newspapers or magazines have a general tendency to give special treatment to one segment of the public or another is not a matter of public concern unless there is a noticeable and widespread pattern of such favoritism.
For instance, a piece of news reporting may suggest or infer that there was a police brutality in a small town recently, and the next day the police chief in the town was quoted as denying that there had ever been such a thing. Clearly there was a public interest in this, and yet the police chief’s remarks would have had a major distorting effect on the value of the news report and the reporting of the story. Similarly, a news story on the value of a certain type of stock would have a large distortive effect if the information came from an insider who had a financial stake in that stock going up or down. This clearly serves no public interest except for the holders of the stock themselves. But there are plenty of other situations where information that has broad public interest is distorted by an insider’s confidential relationship with that news source or his knowledge of the current event.
In these cases, there are two remedies available. First, the courts can require that the copyrighted material is taken off the news reporting publication in question. If the court insists on this course of action, it must determine whether there is a likelihood that the published work will somehow be used by those who do not have authorization of the use. The second remedy is to require that the copyrighted material is taken off the news reporting publication immediately, so that the publisher can reprint the material without any further reference to the copyrighted material. While it is true that the court can order the removal of the copyrighted material, which would surely result in a vast amount of costs for the plaintiff, a future court could simply adopt a rule that requires that any derivative works using or incorporating the copyrighted material must include a copyright statement of some kind.