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Arbitron Sues Saga for Alleged Copyright Infringement

Audience research firm files lawsuit in federal court

Arbitron has gone to federal court over what the audience research firm says is misuse of its data.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Delaware, Arbitron alleges that from about September 2010 to 2012, Saga Communications personnel copied and circulated copies of copyrighted Arbitron audience estimates.

Saga is not an Arbitron subscriber, nor a licensee and is not authorized to “receive, use, copy or distribute” Arbitron ratings data, according to the company.

The audience research firm says management and employees from Saga’s Milwaukee subsidiary, Lakefront Communications, used the data “for various purposes including setting advertising rates charged by defendants’ radio stations and making programming decisions.” The Arbitron audience estimates served as one criteria for Saga to determine whether to give their employees a bonus, alleges the company, which says in the suit that the system was so “widespread, open and notorious” that station personnel called it the “Arbitron bonus.”

Though Arbitron focuses on Milwaukee in the suit, the company also alleges top Saga executives knew what was going on and shared ratings data with other stations in the company.

Arbitron wants a trial, and is seeking no less than $150,000 per incident in damages as well as an award of attorney fees.

The audience research firm also filed a similar lawsuit in January against Gannett-owned WKYC(TV), Cleveland.

The publicly-traded Saga owns 61 FM and 30 AM radio stations, three state radio networks and two farm radio networks.

RW attempts to reach Saga for comment were not successful.

The case is 1:13-cv-00923-UNA Arbitron Inc. v. Saga Communications Inc. et al.