If in doubt, contact the source for clarification. There are no concrete set of rules when it comes to this. Just do a Google search for ‘Righthaven’ to discover people being sued for 6 figures for quoting a few sentences from an article. Some publications are happy for you to take the entire article as long as credit and a link is given, some spit out the dummy if you quote more than a few words.
‘Fair use’ is an argument you can use in court, but it’s really for a court to decide whether it is fair use or not. Either way, most people can’t afford to defend themselves in court, and with copyright ‘enforcement’ and ‘speculative invoicing’ being a big money-earner these days, why take the risk?
felgall I wasn’t asking the question in relation to a particular piece of text. I own a forum and want to set some guidelines as to how much content members can copy into their posts when they are posting about news stories or referencing articles.
In that case, I would say nothing. They can summarize in their own words and link to the original. There is no “fair use” in a forum. Fair use has very limited parameters. Posting in forums isn’t one of them. However, content at some sites (such as much of the content at government websites) is in the public domain, some is published under GPL and some is licensed under Creative Commons. I would put in your TOU that those sources, and only those sources may be directly quoted.
You’re in Europe right? Under the Ecommerce Directive, as a forum ‘service provider’ you are generally not liable for your members posts - however, posting a ‘guideline’ on what you, the site owner, considers ‘acceptable’ to avoid copyright infringement in these cases could probably go towards you losing that liability if any of the posts that followed your guidelines was eventually judged to be infringing.
IMO, better to post no guideline at all, or simply say that your official stance is to not post any text at all. Ridiculous I know.
BTW, was reading this the other day - a ruling in Germany suggests that if you moderate a forum, you could yourself be liable for user generated content.