A Dow Jones press release on BusinessWire announces that the financial media giant filed a lawsuit today against Briefing.com, alleging that the subscription-based financial site misappropriated its headlines and articles. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, includes claims for copyright infringement, "hot news" misappropriation, breach of contract, and DMCA violations based on removal of copyright management information.
I haven't digested the complaint (113 pages including attachments), but the press release gives us a taste of the allegations: "In just one two-week period, Briefing.com copied a substantial portion of at least 100 articles and republished more than 70 headlines within three minutes of the initial publication on Dow Jones Newswires." Hitting all the hot news buzzwords, the press release states that Briefing.com is "free-riding" on Dow Jones' original content, that Briefing.com is in "direct competition" with Dow Jones, and that Briefing.com's actions threaten to undermine Dow Jones' incentive to create news and business information. This quote sums up Dows Jones' position well:
“Dow Jones respects and defends the rights of other news organizations to report on news events in a timely manner. Here, however, 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,” Mr. Jackson said. “In order to continue to offer the quality news and business information customers expect and count on, Dow Jones will take action to stop the misappropriation of its content.” (source)
Not surprisingly, this "sweat of the brow" logic is reminiscent of the reasoning in Judge Cote's influential decision in Barclays v. FlyOnTheWall from late March. I knew there would be follow-on suits, but I didn't think they'd come so quickly.
This one could be interesting to watch because now we're unequivocally dealing with misappropriation of news (not "subjective judgments"), though we're still in the financial sector. As I wrote before, the First Amendment issues at stake in hot news cases should get sharper and clearer as we move away from research and proprietary information and toward the mainstream of ordinary news dissemination and information-sharing. Then again, from glancing at an exhibit to the complaint comparing Dow Jones' and Briefing.com's content, it looks like there could be a fairly strong copyright claim, so the hot news claim may just be an add on.