Judge: Bloomberg has right to record earnings calls

Bloomberg, the mighty news and data empire owned by the mayor of New York City, is an unlikely candidate to strike a blow for flexible copyright laws.

Yet, the company did just that after a federal judge ruled that Bloomberg is entitled to record and sell corporate earnings call without permission.

Swiss-watch maker Swatch sued last year over Bloomberg’s practice of providing subscribers with transcripts of its earning calls. These are public calls on which corporate executives tell investors and reporters about performance and strategy.

Bloomberg asked the judge to throw out the case because the recording was a form of fair use. Fair use is a legal defense that allows people to use copyrighted material for purposes like reporting or scholarship.

In December, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein agreed with Bloomberg that the calls were fair use but gave Swatch more time to persuade him that there “material facts” that deserved a trial.

Swatch came up short last week after Hellerstein found that “What we have at best is a thin copyright” that didn’t deserve copyright protection.

To determine whether something is protected by fair use, courts use a four factor test that balance the rights of the author against the value of the use. Ordinarily, someone will run into trouble under the test if they use a whole work for commercial purposes as Bloomberg did.

But Hellerstein decided that the value of Bloomberg’s news reporting outweighed Swatch’s “thin copyright” and threw out the case.

Here’s a copy of the decision:

Bloomberg Fair Use Copy
(Image by dedMazay via Shutterstock)