City Research Online

Disinformation and Copyright: A Difficult Coexistence

Lucchi, N., Bonadio, E. ORCID: 0000-0003-1078-4323 & Pollicino, O. (2021). Disinformation and Copyright: A Difficult Coexistence. Revista Iberoamericana de la Propiedad Intelectual, 15(00), pp. 39-90. doi: 10.26422/ripi.2021.1500.luc


As is well known, new technologies have fundamentally changed the way content is produced, shared and distributed. One of the most recent (and worrying) changes is the phenomenon of “fake news”, especially since misinformation and the deliberate misrepresentation of genuine information have begun to influence individual decision-making in the political sphere. It is a worrying phenomenon because the spread of fake news can endanger democratic values and undermine national security. In this context, it is worth asking whether copyright law can play a role in the fight against fake news? And most importantly, what is the relationship between such news and copyright law? In theory, fake news falls within the scope of copyright protection and can often meet your protection requirements. This article looks at three recent fake news stories that have become widespread on the internet and demonstrates that such news can be protected by copyright. The first example is a short article, while the other two examples relate to a digitally altered photograph and a video. Although [these messages] are potentially copyrightable, we suggest that any rights of this nature that might arise should be removed, on public interest grounds. This is because when a work enjoys copyright protection, its owners have an incentive to exploit it, as the monopoly granted to them allows them to take advantage of the work, for example through licensing. This may encourage the creators of fake news to disseminate it exponentially through multiple channels in order to reach a large audience. Copyright exclusion could therefore make fake news less attractive. The article also briefly discusses the copyright defenses that entities and individuals who check the truth of news (fact-checkers) can assert, namely the doctrine of fair use under US law and various exceptions available under EU (and UK) law, namely transient use, data and text extraction, the criticism and review exception and public safety.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Published under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International licence.
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Departments: The City Law School > Academic Programmes
SWORD Depositor:
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