Despite winning in court to protect valuable copyrights, Wall Street firms are unable to protect their valuable trading recommendations as federal and state laws collide in Barclays Capital Inc. v. Theflyonthewall.com, Inc.1 (pending any potential review on appeal). The electronic news media continues to lead the charge, and now the walls of exclusivity are beginning to crumble for these respected recommendations.
Wall Street firms have for long provided detailed research reports and trading recommendations — exclusively to firm customers — to drive order flow with the recommending firm, thereby generating commission revenue. Storming the walls, however, are those in the electronic news media blasting the once-exclusive information to all corners of the Internet, immediately upon its release by Wall Street. But for Wall Street, this widespread, uncontrolled dissemination has cut into profitability and has wreaked havoc on traditional business models for market research.
Although the electronic news media scored a fresh victory, Wall Street has not suffered a devastating loss. The copyrightable aspects of Wall Street research — the published models, insights, and facts, for example, are often more valuable to institutional customers than the basic recommendation itself (e.g., Buy, Sell, or Hold). These copyrightable aspects, of course, remain protected by federal copyright law.2 Outside the realm of finance, however, this case may signal much broader implications for any business with both feet in the Information Age.
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