Is Scribd.com to research providers what YouTube is to Viacom?

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New York – Scribd is a big social publishing site, which links to Facebook and is an increasingly popular way to share documents. Scribd is a bit like YouTube for text. And just like YouTube, people publish not only their own content, but copyrighted material as well (despite this violating their own user guidelines). Of course, there is plenty of broker content seeping on there, for example, this report from Morgan Stanley: http://www.scribd.com/doc/26066791/Banks-Regulation-Morgan-Stanley, or this report from Goldman Sachs: http://www.scribd.com/doc/26847053/Goldman-Sachs-Research-The-Labor-Market

There are obvious parallels between this and the Viacom/Google case, where a judge recently ruled in favor of Google, and of course the ongoing FlyontheWall saga.

Of course the issue with FlyontheWall is about the rapidity with which FlyontheWall can take broker content, and essentially get in front of the broker’s own calls. But some research reports have a longer shelf life, and can attract views over many weeks or months. Scribd.com is more tuned to being an archive or repository of such content, rather than a hot news publishing service.

We should also note what Google and Twitter said in their amicus filing on behalf of FlyontheWall:

In a world of modern communications technology, where anyone with a cell phone may disseminate news throughout the world even as it is occurring, the notion that a single media outlet should have a monopoly on time-sensitive facts is not only contrary to law, it is, as a practical matter, futile

Indeed, it may not even be worth the time of Wall Street lawyers to go after scribd.com, simply because there are so many other, non-public ways through which written reports can be easily redistributed (email attachments being only the most obvious example). Nevertheless, the site has already attracted some legal attention. Based on the Google/Viacom ruling and the safe-harbor exemption in the DMCA, it would seem that brokers will need to systematically monitor sites like this, and issue take down notices, unless of course this is an acceptable level of leakage.

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