Morgan Stanley, Barclays, and Merrill Lynch Lose ‘Hot News’ Misappropriation Case Against Inc. in Appeals Court

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has reversed a lower court’s ruling and decided that under New York law, Inc., an online financial news service, may not be held liable for disseminating the equity research recommendations found in reports of plaintiffs Barclays Capital Inc., Morgan Stanley & Co. Inc., and Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith Inc. The appeals court’s Judge Robert D. Sack concluded that federal copyright law preempts the ‘Hot News’ misappropriation claim.

The financial firms’ reports contain research about public companies, their securities and business prospects, and their respective industries. The reports summarize these findings, which often include recommendations about holding, selling, and buying the subjects’ securities. The firms give clients and prospective ones these reports before the US securities markets open daily as an “informational advantage.”

The plaintiffs accused Fly, which has managed to get a hold of these recommendations and issue them before the brokerage firms had given them to the public or before the exchanges that the securities are traded have opened, of copyright infringement. Concurring with the plaintiffs, a lower court then barred the news service from both infringing on the copyrighted aspects of the brokerage firms’ research reports and publishing their recommendations until after the New York Stock Exchange opened.

Now, however, the appeals court is saying that “a firm’s ability to make news… does not give rise to a right for it to control who breaks the news and how.” The court reversed and remanded the earlier claim and told the district court to dismiss the brokerage firms’ misappropriation claim under New York law.

Related Web Resources: Inc.

Read the district court’s opinion (PDF)

Brokerages Lose in Appeals Court On N.Y. ‘Hot News’ Misappropriation Claim, BNA Securities Law Daily, June 20, 2011

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