Yahoo Finance Is Free – Or Is It?

Yahoo Finance is Free – Or Is It?

If you want to value your portfolio without logging in to your brokerage account, you could set up a spreadsheet and download prices from Yahoo Finance. They don’t charge any money for this service. It is completely free. They do have a daily limit to how much data you can download per day. But, the average person will never reach that, especially when you are using the data to value your portfolio. After all, if you have thousands of stocks in a personal portfolio, you are likely doing something wrong. Most people have much fewer stocks than that in their portfolios.

Stock Market Chart Data

What happens if you decide to publish your portfolio? Perhaps you’d like to brag to your friends about what a great financial guru you have become. Or, you have people suddenly willing to pay you for your investment advice because your portfolio is kicking butt. Here, is where you may find yourself in hot water.

Yahoo Finance specifically states that you are not permitted to publish the data you receive from their website in any form, whether it is for commercial use or not. This even includes a simple stock quote. You may think that Yahoo does not check this, or they simply turn a blind eye to anyone doing this. However, even if that were true, it may not remain that way forever.

Yahoo could start cracking down, if they haven’t already. Copyright infringement comes with hefty fines. It’s not likely that courts would rule in your favor if you are served with an injunction. Even if they did, you would still have to go through the trouble of going to court in the first place, and that usually means hiring a lawyer.

You also need to understand that Yahoo doesn’t own the financial data they provide on their website. They subscribe to services that allow them to republish financial data, for a fee of course. They aren’t permitted to allow others to republish because it’s not within their rights to grant this.

What Can You Do?

Perhaps you still need ways to publish financial data. Technically, you could publish returns on your portfolio without giving specifics on how many shares are involved. No one can derive a stock price simply from the returns of your portfolio. If you include the number of shares, they could reverse engineer those returns to come up with the price you used to value the shares. Therefore, avoid any information that may allow people to derive the price.

If multiple data providers publish the same data, e.g., closing stock prices, etc., you may believe they won’t know how you obtained your quotes. To some extent, you are correct. It’s not worth it for Yahoo to target a blog that publishes one or two quotes on occasion. However, if you download frequent updates, they will track your activity via your IP address. If you publish stock prices, this information could imply a quasi-contract, which would be the basis for using it against you.

I am not a lawyer, so you should not misconstrue this information as advice or suggestions on what to do. Anytime you plan on publishing data in any capacity that doesn’t belong to you, seek the advice of professionals. This may cost you some money upfront. It is likely to be much less than what you would pay if you were hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Another possibility is to link to a website from your blog. In other words, if you are writing on your blog about a particular stock that has increased in value, and you want to include a chart to show the impact of the increase, you could include an image from a stock charting service and give credit to the service.

Even here, you should concern yourself with a concept known as fair use. Copyright law allows for small segments of works from others to be included in what you publish. They don’t give any exact guidelines of what fair use entails. There isn’t a specific word count, nor is there a predetermined limit on the number of images you can include. The courts would probably use a ratio of words that are original against the amount of copied text. Again, there is no hard-set number they will quote. It gets even trickier for images as you have the dimensions of the image to consider as well as the number of images that you include.

If you must republish financial data, you should obtain a subscription to a data provider. These don’t come cheap., for instance, costs $750 per month for a commercial license. Hopefully, if you have recurring payments from subscribers, it will cover the costs of your subscription. You will need to ensure that you add value when publishing this data. Otherwise, you may find it difficult to retain these paying subscribers.

One piece of advice I do feel comfortable giving is to make sure the data provider you choose, truly has rights to allow republishing. It’s easy for anyone to set up a website and charge for access to data they have no right providing. Your best bet is to choose direct providers, i.e., ones who capture data directly from the market. This is provided by the exchanges themselves.

After reading this article, if you still feel that you can use financial data from Yahoo or any other data provider, please don’t say I didn’t warn you if you get sued.

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