Is rewriting news content ethical?

Posted on September 14, 2009


One question that has come up recently is whether rewriting news content for your website is ethical, or indeed legal. Are you infringing on anyone’s copyright when you write your own take on a news story, should you do it from an ethical standpoint and, more importantly, will Google consider what you’d done as duplicate text?

There are several main issues here, beginning with ‘who actually owns the news’? If a newsworthy event happens in the world, does ownership of that news reside with those who first reported it? Of course not; you cannot own a piece of news. When Michael Jackson died, the website didn’t own the news that he died, even though they were first to break the story. Newspapers and TV stations didn’t have to ask their permission to cover the story, nor did they have to acknowledge them as being the originators of the story.

Many did acknowledge them of course, because when the news first broke few believed it to be true and wanted their viewers to know that were the ones claiming it.

The second issue to resolve is the level of rewriting performed, and the level of research conducted. If you simply visit one source, copy the text and then change a few adjectives and verbs, you’re plagiarising the source. You cannot do that!

What you can do is read several sources and then write your own version of the news, in your own words. You can also use quotes so long as you attribute those quotes to whoever made them, and remember to block quote them too so Google knows they are quotes and not attempt to pass off content as your own.

This is an ethical way of writing news and content for your website, and should not be confused with Article Spinning, which some companies offer as a service.

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