Last July, the head honchos at FOX News caught an ill wind blowing about a Connecticut-based company called TVEyes, which was recording snippets of the network and selling it to others. They were like any other media clipping service, but because people used TVEyes’ product to criticize FOX News, Rupert Murdoch wanted to shut ’em down.
The lawsuit accuses TVEyes of misappropriating “the entirety of the works that Fox News has developed at great expense and to reproduce, to distribute, to publicly perform and/or to publicly display verbatim copies of the works” without authorization.
And in the spirit of Public Enemy, the company decided to “Fight the Power.” Fast forward to yesterday when TVEyes did the unthinkable: They ‘brought the noise’ and beat FOX News.
Here’s what happened.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan disagreed with the overall claim from FOX News that TVEyes was a “parasitic” service that was “leeching profits from its considerable investments in producing content for its cable channels.” In his humble opinion, TVEyes’ copying and indexing of the clips fairly used the cable news channel’s content in line with copyright law.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, many sources (not just MSNBC, The White House, and Comedy Central, which inspired FOX News’ suit) regularly use FOX News clips in their own programming — hence the need for TVEyes.
The lawsuit concerns TVEyes, which might not be widely known, but is used by MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Reuters and Bloomberg to monitor what is being said on Fox News and more than 1,400 other television and radio stations. Besides use by media organization, TVEyes’ clients also include the White House, 100 members of Congress, the Department of Defense, the American Red Cross, AARP, Goldman Sachs, the Association of Trial Lawyers and many others.
In this lawsuit, Fox News also “expressed concern that TVEyes competes with its own authorized clip service, which has deals with Yahoo, Hulu and YouTube.” So this is fight to both stop the hate and continue the profit flow.
Here’s the most important thing we learned from the ruling: Fox News licensees must agree they will not show clips in a way that is derogatory or critical of Fox News.
With that backdrop, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein had to examine TVEyes and figure out whether it was a copyright-infringing machine (somewhat but not exactly analogous to what the Supreme Court had to say about Aereo) or whether it served some form of purpose that put it outside the realm of a copyright holder’s exclusive rights. Hellerstein takes the latter view, determining that it’s closer to Google’s efforts to digitize books than Meltwater’s efforts to scrape online news stories.
In other words, when it comes to FOX News, America needs services like TVEyes because we, the people, “Can’t Truss It.”
(Okay, sorry. I’m done.)