WASHINGTON (CN) – Bloomberg was slapped with a copyright infringement lawsuit Thursday by a competitor that claims the business news giant is “free-riding” by summarizing and republishing the competitor’s subscription-based material.
In a federal complaint filed Thursday in Washington, Capitol Forum claims Bloomberg routinely solicits, summarizes and distributes its copyrighted work.
Capitol Forum is a self-described business and market news company that offers a subscription service for time-sensitive reports and analyses.
Bloomberg directly competes with Capitol Forum since it also offers subscription-based services of similar news coverage.
Minutes after Capitol Forum releases its own analyses, Bloomberg obtains the work from subscribers subscribers and republishes a summary of the reports in its own “First Word” subscription service, according to the 17-page complaint filed by Capitol Forum.
“The ability of other parties to free-ride on Capitol Forum’s efforts will substantially threaten Capitol Forum’s incentive to invest in its investigative reporting at the same level,” Capitol Forum says in the complaint.
According to Capitol Forum, the two companies target the same customer base, which garners competition of a fiercer kind.
Though the “fair use” doctrine sometimes justifies the unlicensed use of copyright-protected work, Capitol Forum says it does not apply in this situation.
Like many news subscription services, Capitol Forum subscribers are warned not to transmit the company’s material and are informed that doing so is illegal. Ironically, Bloomberg also cautions its subscribers that summarizing copyrighted material is illegal, Capitol Forum says in its complaint.
“This case challenges routine newsgathering practices protected under the First Amendment and Bloomberg will vigorously defend journalists’ right to gather and report the news,” John Micklethwait, Bloomberg editor-in-chief, said in an emailed statement Friday.
Alongside counts of copyright infringement and enabling subscribers’ breach of contract, Capitol Forum accuses Bloomberg of “hot news misappropriation.” The company says its analyses are valuable due to their time-sensitive nature, but the effort put into these reports are undermined by Bloomberg snatching and repurposing them.
Capitol Forum seeks $150,000 for damages per copyright violation. The company is represented by John B. Williams and Fara N. Kitton of Williams Lopatto in Washington, who could not be reached for comment Thursday.