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USDC New York Finds for Bloomberg Newsgroup in Copyright Suit

On May 17, 2012, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York found for the Defendant, business and financial news provider Bloomberg L.P., in a copyright infringement suit initiated by the Swatch Group Management Services, Ltd. Swatch contended that Bloomberg obtained through a third-party transcription service a copy of the recorded minutes of a conference call relating to their quarterly earnings for the just closed quarter attended by Swatch executives and various private securities analysts. Bloomberg made the recording available to their paid subscribers.

Plaintiff Swatch alleged the remarks and responses of their executives constituted an original work of authorship, and that the recording fixed onto a tangible medium qualified it for copyright protection. The recording was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

The issue before the court immediately and singularly was fair use – whether Bloomberg’s actions were consistent with fair use in both thought and deed. Through the records submitted by both sides during the early stages as Plaintiff moved for judgment on the pleadings, requesting specifically that the court strike the Defendant’s fair use affirmative defense, the court found that all relevant material facts were in the record and gave Plaintiff leave to show that triable issues of material fact existed that were not already before the court in order to prevent granting summary judgment in favor of the Defendant.

Plaintiff’s answer addressed the strictures set forth in §107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, defining the specifics of copyright infringement. The court addressed those four points: (a) the purpose and character of the contested material was for-profit, non-transformative and acquired by means lacking in good faith, none of which was supportive of fair use – but the court noted that the benefit of news dissemination outweighed those facts; (b) the copyrighted work was by nature factual, and thus least needful of copyright protection; (c) the recording was used in its entirety, frequently a parameter that tend toward copyright violation, but again the end justified the means; (d) not possessing of any intrinsic market value.

Plaintiff averred several instances of triable issues of material fact that the court saw as irrelevant to its analysis and one instance which it did accept, namely that the recording contained incidents of oral speech that did not translate onto the page – winks, nods, gestures that could reflect a different context – but the court saw that as insufficient to warrant trial.

The court held for the Defendant, Bloomberg L.P., and dismissed the case. See: Swatch Corp. v. Bloomberg L.P., 861 F.Supp.2d 336 (S.D.N.Y. 2012).

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Related legal case

Swatch Corp. v. Bloomberg L.P.