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The application of exceptions to copyright infringement in online news articles has become contentious with the widespread practice of aggregation. The specific concern is whether reproducing or adapting news articles that are published on competitors’ websites without permission falls within the scope of the exceptions to copyright infringement in respect of news articles or, alternatively, such conduct is protected by fair use.
This paper provides a South African perspective on the above concern by comparing the USA case of Meltwater 1 with the South African case of Moneyweb, 2 which has attempted to provide clarity on copyright in the context of online journalism. The paper first analyses the complexities of the rapid rise of online news, which raise questions such as whether hyperlinking is sufficient attribution and the difference between ‘scraping’ and aggregation, as well as the effects of these practices on competing media. It then considers whether the doctrine of fair use, which should arguably be flexible enough to adapt to the changing obligations in the context of new technologies, 3 is capable of providing clear guidance on reasonable online media practice beyond South Africa. The central argument is that the doctrine of fair use should foster online innovation and the sharing of public information while ensuring respect of copyright.