NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dow Jones & Co sued the financial news service Briefing.com Inc on Tuesday, accusing it of getting a “free ride” by systematically misappropriating its news and headlines, often in near real-time.
The lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court, one month after a judge in that court issued an injunction banning Theflyonthewall.com from quickly publishing research issued by Bank of America Corp’s Merrill Lynch unit, Barclays Plc and Morgan Stanley.
“Briefing.com has brazenly taken a free ride,” Dow Jones general counsel Mark Jackson said in a statement. “Briefing.com did not use its own resources to uncover, verify and describe news events. It waited for Dow Jones to do all the work, and then simply copied the content.”
Dow Jones, a unit of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, is seeking a permanent injunction against copyright infringement, the deletion of copyrighted materials from Briefing.com’s database, compensatory and punitive damages.
Briefing.com, which is based in Chicago, did not immediately return requests for comment.
Tuesday’s copyright lawsuit is the latest battle among financial news providers over the alleged misappropriation of “hot news” and whether it infringes copyright law or the media’s ability to publish under the First Amendment.
Such information, whether in the form of breaking news or analyst research, regularly moves stocks higher and lower. It is critical to traders and the news media they depend on for fast, often instantaneous news dissemination.
It also comes amid growing competition among news providers for revenue, including from online content, as Wall Street tries to pare costs in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
According to its website, Briefing.com offers some services for free and others for $40 a month or more. Founder and chairman Dick Green created Briefing.com in 1992 and the company employs more than 60 people, the website says.
“JOURNALISTIC EFFORT” WANTING
In its lawsuit, Dow Jones contended that Briefing.com regularly and without permission republishes its news, often verbatim.
As an example, it said that from Jan. 29 to Feb. 12, 2010, Briefing.com copied 72 headlines and a “substantial portion” of at least 107 articles within a few minutes of their initial appearance on Dow Jones Newswires, without permission or any “journalistic effort” on its own part.
Dow Jones said it is “unaware” how Briefing.com obtains Dow Jones news, but said it is likely liable for either breach of contract or unauthorized interference if it gets news from Dow Jones subscribers so it can distribute it on its own.
Thomson Reuters Corp, Bloomberg LP and other services compete with Dow Jones in providing real-time news. Erin Kurtz, a Thomson Reuters spokeswoman, declined to comment. Judith Czelusniak, a Bloomberg spokeswoman, was not immediately available for comment.
In her March 18 ruling against Theflyonthewall.com, Cote ordered the Summit, New Jersey-based company to wait until 10 a.m. to report research from Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Barclays and Morgan Stanley issued before the market opens and at least two hours for research issued thereafter.
She said this gave the providers -- in this case the Wall Street banks -- time to get news first to their clients, “while still recognizing the inevitable, fast-moving, and widespread informal communication of recommendations on Wall Street.”
Theflyonthewall.com has asked Cote to put the injunction on hold, saying it has caused some clients to cancel their subscriptions and could threaten its survival. The banks argued otherwise on Tuesday, saying “reduced subscription revenue is not tantamount to irreparable harm.”
NewsCorp shares closed up 7 cents at $15.85 on the Nasdaq.
The case is Dow Jones & Co v. Briefing.com Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 10-03321.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; additional reporting by Jennifer Saba; editing by Bernard Orr and Andre Grenon
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