New York – In a largely anticipated twist to theflyonthewall saga, both Google and Twitter have come out in support of the fly. In fact, they have asked the U.S. appeals court to overturn a lower court’s previous decision, which had found that theflyonthewall had engaged in “systematic misappropriation” of upgrade and downgrade data from sell-side institutions.
There is no question that the democratization of information has been a massive benefit to the general public. However, enhanced ability of information to flow quickly through the internet creates friction between freedom of speech and intellectual property themes.
Google and Twitter argue that banning immediate news dissemination was an obsolete practice. Cleary, unfettered access news is a goal in which Google and Twitter are in agreement with most individuals, since the greater the available information, the more informed the general populous is. They argue that it is difficult to institute any period of embargo for news, because of its relevance to the general public. As an example, they ask how long should the news about the Times Square bomber have been embargoed?
On the surface, this makes a little sense, because no one would feel that there should be an embargo on this kind of breaking news that is critical to the safety of people. Indeed, an embargo in this situation elicits a visceral response, which is – of course – the intent of this “sound bite”. However, there are situations where the complete democratization of information is not appropriate.
While an event like the Times Square bomber is public information that is the right of every individual to have knowledge of, brokers have no responsibility to relay research to anyone but their clients. In light of the fact that the broker, or any other IP holder, owns that content, the Google/Twitter “obsolete” argument falls on its face.
For example, is it obsolete to wait until 8:30 on the first Friday of each month to release the BLS’s employment report data? Or can folks feel free to transmit data from a “budget lockup”.
As information has become democratized over the past several years, it has had two effects. First, the information available to individuals has exploded, making us all research librarians. I recall having to go to the library to look in the card catalog for reference material. Now that is obsolete. However, in the rush for information, we have perhaps lost sight of the fact that some information is proprietary, private or has IP that it is not to legal to share. These rights of ownership need to be protected as vigorously as the freedom of speech.