Two years ago, Fox News sued a company called TVEyes, which creates a text-searchable database of broadcast content from thousands of television and radio stations in the United States and worldwide. EFF and the Technology Law & Policy Clinic at New York University School of Law last week filed a friend-of-the-court brief explaining that this kind of technology is needed to enable robust and effective media criticism and is protected by the fair use doctrine of copyright law, just like other search engines.
TVEyes vastly increases the power of the public—from political campaigns to satirical news programs to media watchdogs—to make sense of the media landscape. While it would be virtually impossible for any single organization to monitor all of the relevant news and other content broadcast every day, services like TVEyes make it manageable to research, study, and comment in an informed way on the media landscape.
The judge in this case already concluded last September that fair use blocks most of Fox’s claims. However, the parties have continued to brief the issue of whether fair use protects certain advanced features of the TVEyes service, including the ability to search for clips by date and time and the ability to download clips from the service.
That’s where we came in, representing a group of prominent media critics: the Nation’s Eric Alterman, Columbia University’s Victor Navasky, the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), and the production company Brave New Films (whose founder, Robert Greenwald, has directed works of advocacy journalism including Outfoxed and Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price). We filed a brief explaining that effective media criticism, in a world with countless television channels beaming 24/7 across televisions and computer screens, requires that services like TVEyes be protected by fair use, and that other courts have rejected attempts to use copyright law to shut down services like this one.
Copyright law does not give anyone the right to silence criticism, and it would be a shame if rightsholders were able to achieve the same result by eliminating the tools that media critics need. We hope that the court will agree and reject Fox’s claims.
EFF would like to thank Brett Max Kaufman, Rafael Reyneri, and Phil Cernera of the N.Y.U. Technology Law & Policy Clinic for their invaluable contributions to this project.