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Saga Doesn’t Take Arbitron Suit Lying Down

Broadcaster says audience researcher has no copyright protection for ratings and is trying to intimidate stations

Saga Communications is challenging Arbitron’s grasp of the facts in its answer to the audience research firm’s copyright infringement lawsuit.

Arbitron sued Saga in May, alleging copyright infringement at the Milwaukee cluster.

Saga no longer subscribes to Arbitron data. The audience research firm said Saga employees in Milwaukee obtained, copied and distributed Arbitron copyrighted data to set ad rates and make program decisions.

Saga denies many of the allegations. In its response filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware yesterday, Saga claims Arbitron does not own “any copyright or other rights in facts, information, data, or numerical rankings” and cannot stop others from possessing, copying, distributing or using them.

Saga says third parties have given the company “various excerpts and summaries of facts, information, data or numerical rankings provided to the third parties by Arbitron,” and Saga has seen the same information in “various trade publications facts, information, data, and rankings provided by Arbitron.”

Arbitron has known, or should have known, writes Saga, that it has no copyright protection for facts, information, data or numerical rankings and the company has no right to prohibit radio stations from using that information or from possessing a copy of its reports.

Saga goes further, saying in an “improper and illegitimate effort to maintain its near-monopoly on radio ratings, and to maintain the exorbitant prices it charges for its reports,” the audience research firm has gone on “a campaign to intimidate and harass radio stations” that cancel their Arbitron subscriptions.

“This campaign includes threats of legal action against former subscribers who are given excerpts from Arbitron reports by ad agencies, competitors or other entities,” writes the broadcaster. “The campaign includes claims that the former subscriber has no right to be in possession of such excerpts, no right to take note of the station’s rankings in the local radio market, and no right to discuss the rankings internally. In furtherance of this campaign, Arbitron threatens to commence expensive litigation in federal court against the former subscriber unless the radio station agrees to renew its very expensive subscription to Arbitron’s reports, a subscription the station does not need and does not want. If the radio station does not accede to Arbitron’s demands, Arbitron files a suit for copyright infringement in federal court.”

This lawsuit is but one example of such suits, according to Saga, which seeks to have the lawsuit dismissed.