Fox News Suffers Setback in TVEyes Lawsuit

Judge finds that parts of TVEyes’ service fall under fair use, while reserving judgment on others

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Fox News Network has been handed some bad news in its lawsuit against the video subscription service TVEyes.

U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein in New York struck down a good portion of Fox’s claims on Tuesday.

Fox News Network filed suit in July 2013, contending that TVEyes, which monitors and records television content and allows subscribers to obtain video clips of the content, violates Fox’s copyright and New York’s unfair competition and misappropriation laws.

Also read: Fox News Sues TVEyes for Copyright Infringement

But in his ruling in the “fair use” case, the judge declared that TVEyes’ service — which is used by the White House, Congress, the Associated Press, MSNBC, Reuters and others — does more than repackage Fox’s original material. 

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“TV Eyes’ search results show the combination of visual images and text in a medium that raises the commentator to have the qualities of news itself,” the judge said.

“By indexing and excerpting all content appearing in television, every hour of the day and every day of the week, month and year, TVEyes provides a service that no content provider provides,” the judge said. “Subscribers to TVEyes gain access not only to the news that is presented, but to the presentations themselves, as colored, processed, and criticized by commentators, and as abridged, modified and enlarged by news broadcasts.”

Also read: Fox News’ Chris Wallace Derides NBC’s ‘Lousy’ Treatment of David Gregory

Hellerstein’s order is far from conclusive. As Fox News pointed out in a statement, only part of TVEyes’ service was deemed fair use, and the judge has reserved judgment on other parts of TVEyes’ service for a later date.

“The Court only ruled that a specific portion of TVEyes’ service — its keyword search function — was fair use. The Court expressly said that it required more information to decide whether TVEyes’ other features — including allowing video clips to be archived, downloaded, emailed, and shared via social media — were fair use,” a Fox News spokesperson said in a statement. “The Court has called for another hearing on Oct. 3, 2014.”

Indeed, Hellerstein notes in his order that the “record must further be developed” before he can determine whether other aspects of TVEyes’ service falls under fair use.

“I hold that TVEyes’ database and provision of television clips and snippets of transcript are transformative and thus constitute fair use, protecting it from claims of copyright infringement,” Hellerstein wrote. “The record must be further developed, however, before I can determine whether or not the features that allow searches by date and time, and that allows clips to be archived, downloaded, emailed and shared via social media are integral services and protected by a fair use defense.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.