Fox News cannot stop a media monitoring service from recording snippets of its broadcasts and offering them to clients, some of which use them to criticize the network, a New York federal judge ruled on Tuesday.
Fox, which is owned by Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., sued TVEyes Inc for copyright infringement in 2013, calling it a "parasitic" service that was leeching profits from its considerable investments in producing content for its cable channels.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan disagreed, saying TVEyes' copying and indexing of the clips fairly used the cable news channel's content in line with copyright law.
He denied Fox's demand for an injunction against TVEyes. A representative of Fox News said the court reserved judgment on whether other aspects of TVEyes' database, the ability to archive and email clips, for instance, also amount to fair use. Another hearing is set for Oct. 3.
The Connecticut-based TVEyes' clients include the U.S. Army, the White House, members of Congress, and local and state police departments, which use it to track news coverage of events, according to Hellerstein. He said Internet searches would not yield as comprehensive results as a search of TVEyes.
"Thus, without TVEyes, this information cannot otherwise be gathered and searched," the judge said. It was this factor that made TVEyes' service "transformative," he explained, a key factor in determining whether any infringement occurred.
Based on its clients' many uses of the service, Hellerstein added, TVEyes "provides substantial benefit to the public."
"We are very pleased with the decision," TVEyes Chief Executive Officer David Ives said in an email.
TVEyes argued in court filings that another benefit of the service is that it facilitates criticism of Fox. It singled out one client, the George Soros-funded Media Matters, which monitors various media for "conservative misinformation" and frequently criticizes Fox.
To halt this, TVEyes argued, would give Fox "control over the public's right to continue to access information and effectively engage in political discourse."
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