The Digital Media Project



Philip Merrill


TRU #47 Right of factual reporting




Philip Merrill

Affiliation/additional information:

Active Contributor, Pasadena, California

Date submitted:







Name of TRU

Right of factual reporting


Summary description of TRU

News journalists enjoy a general liberty to state facts in their columns, and news photographers are able to run sufficiently newsworthy pictures without extensive rights clearing and licensing.


Use records of TRU

Even before U.S. fair use gave special treatment to news journalism in harmony with first amendment principles, European journalists settled on relatively lax standards of copyright enforcement for certain aspects of factual reporting. It is generally perceived that informatory use is so important as to serve a social need that should be facilitated.


Nature of TRU

At section 5.5.I.2.B of Paul Goldstein's International Copyright, he says, "to bring news of the day or items of press information within copyright control could seriously hamper press operations and injure the public interest in being informed of newsworthy events."

Prof. Ricketson at provides an extensive treatment (pp. 17-20) of Berne's articles 2(8), 2bis(2), 10bis(1) and 10bis(2). He notes that many news articles do not fall within the current events description, and suggests that compulsory licensing could establish a rate for this, after which violations of TRU paternity (referred to as "attribution") could be handled by fines or some other lesser penalty that "does not make the use itself unlawful."

Other informatory purposes can permit reporting beyond "current events" but the use should clearly be limited to what is necessary. For example Ricketson, "It will be clear that this does not allow carte blanche for the reproduction of whole works under the guise of reporting current events: this will only be permitted where the nature of the work is such that it would not be possible to make the report without doing so.

Note that speeches by public figures or public agencies can fall into this category and are also treated by Berne. Another variation of usage is when a copyrighted work is audible or visible in the background of a news event recorded in audio/photo/audiovisual format(s).


Benefits of TRU

Everybody benefits in the long run, but in the short run this could be harmful to authors or other rightsholders who want to control how information about their activities is released to the public.


Possible digital support

Like TRU copying for classroom instruction, this TRU is essentially established by its informatory purpose.

Potentially could be used with DEU 40 to provide tagging of fact-checked names and spellings that could allow a number of e-commerce options, for example superdistributed inclusion in the news reports of other reporting organizations.



somewhat liberal permission for use while news is "fresh"

tagging of fact-checked facts so descriptions of their verification can be reviewed

8. References