Is it illegal to request information from a state tourism source and use it on my website?

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Is it illegal to request information from a state tourism source and use it on my website?

I want to start a website about American and international beaches and want to get as much information as I can. So I was going to request information from state tourism about there beaches to be put on to my website. I didn’t want to just go to their website and copy the info word for word. I thought it would be better to ask for the info. If they would e-mail me info about the beaches in the state would it be legal to use it on my website since I asked for the info.

Asked on May 18, 2011 under Business Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Copyright protects the expression of information, not the facts contained in it. For example, were he a living author today (and not a president, since federal material is in the public doman), Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, "Four score and seven years ago..." could be protected by copyright. However, that would not stop someone else from writing "Eight-seven years previously...", which has the same information, but not the same expression of that content.

The above means that if you can get information regarding state tourism and then digest it, rewrite it, and reformat it, you can use it without violating copyright. You can write about number of beaches, locations, etc. as long as you don't use the state's text, pictures, etc. The only other hurdle to get over is to 1) not use information that is specifically provided "for non-commercial use" only, since to do so would be to violate the terms of that usage (get the info from some other source); and (2) don't lie to get the information if you think it might be restricted. But if you simply ask for the information and get it, then rewrite, etc. it, you should be ok.


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