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Communications of the ACM

Legally speaking

Copyright Blocks a News-Monitoring Technology

Copyright Blocks a News-Monitoring Technology, illustration

Credit: Shutterstock

For those who want comprehensive access to recent televised news on any topic—be it bombings in Syria, protests in Turkey, tornados in the Midwest, or indictments of Trump campaign officials—TVEyes has been the "go to" news-monitoring service. Its system stores programming from 1,400 broadcast outlets on a 24/7 basis for 32-day periods, transcribes their contents, and indexes the transcripts to enable keyword searching. In response to customers' search queries, TVEyes' system generated lists of relevant video clips in reverse chronological order, which when clicked on, would play program segments containing the keywords, starting 14 seconds before the keywords to provide context and lasting no more than 10 minutes. Among TVEyes' 2,200 subscribers have been the White House, the U.S. Department of Defense, 100 members of Congress, Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg, Reuters, and two major broadcast networks.

In response to Fox News Networks' copyright infringement lawsuit, TVEyes raised a fair use defense. Although a trial court upheld this defense as to the system's most salient features, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2018 ruled Fox was right: the challenged uses were unfair. The court's opinion has significant implications for developers of technology-intensive services intended to offer similar features.


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