NY judge: TV clip service not violating copyright

AP News
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Posted: Sep 09, 2014 7:28 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A media monitoring company distributing television clips and snippets of transcripts to customers including the White House and Congress hasn't violated broadcasters' copyrights by letting its customers search its database, but it's unclear whether all facets of its business will get a judicial stamp of approval, a judge said Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan ruled in a copyright case filed by Fox News Network against TVEyes Inc. He wrote that the company's database and its searchable function for television clips and snippets of transcript were fair uses of broadcast content and thus were protected from claims of copyright infringement.

But he said he must see additional evidence before deciding whether features that allow searches by date and time and that allow clips to be archived, downloaded, emailed and shared via social media are protected.

Fox had sued last year for damages and to stop the company from distributing clips of its programs.

In a statement, Fox noted that the judge "only ruled that a specific portion of TVEyes' service — its keyword search function — was fair use" and that Hellerstein scheduled an October hearing so he could begin gathering more information to decide the legality of TVEyes' other features.

David Ives, TVEyes' chief executive, said in an email he was "very pleased" with the ruling.

Hellerstein said the company had created a database that was transformative and makes fair use of broadcasters' content. He noted that 82 percent of video clips accessed on TVEyes are a minute long or less, and less than 1 percent of clips are played for the maximum allowable time of 10 minutes.

"No reasonable juror could find that people are using TVEyes as a substitute for watching Fox News broadcasts on television," Hellerstein wrote. "TVEyes is not a valuable service because its subscribers credit it as a reliable news outlet, it is valuable because it reports what the news outlets and commentators are saying and therefore does not 'scoop' or free-ride on the news services."

The judge said the company captures and indexes broadcasts that otherwise would be largely unavailable once they aired.

"Users access the clips and snippets for an altogether different purpose — to evaluate and criticize broadcast journalism, to track and correct misinformation, to evaluate commercial advertising, to evaluate national security risks, and to track compliance with financial market regulations," Hellerstein said.

He added: "Subject to possible exceptions from the downloading and sharing of clips via social media, ... I find that the small possible market harm to Fox News is substantially outweighed by the important public benefit provided by TVEyes."