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A U.S. district judge in California has ruled that the fair-use doctrine under U.S. copyright law does not protect the wholesale copying of newspaper articles on the Internet, even if the Web site in question is used for public comment on the articles.

The decision is a victory for the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, which are suing the operator of conservative Web site www.freerepublic.com. The Nov. 8 ruling by the U.S. district court in Los Angeles strikes “at the heart of what’s going on on the Internet, which is going to other people’s Web sites and posting copyrighted content,” said Rex S. Heinke, of Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland L.L.P., in Beverly Hills, Calif., who represents the newspapers. Los Angeles Times v. Free Republic, CV No. 98-7840-MMM.

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