Opening Cross: A Misplaced Sense of Entitlement?

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Last week, we at Inside Market Data experienced a problem that’s already an all-too-frequent issue for data industry participants—unauthorized and non-compliant usage of proprietary data. After all, just like the major data vendors and newswires, we consider ourselves a provider of premium content, most of which is licensed and protected by subscription agreements.

In this case, the vendor—who shall remain nameless because of their prompt and responsible action once we alerted them—used one of our stories about them as a press release, reprinting our text verbatim. When journalists willfully do this with other people’s stories, it’s called plagiarism. When data providers deliberately do this with other vendors’ content, it’s called piracy—and certain regions in the world are littered with instances of one company’s premium content mysteriously appearing on another vendor’s screen at a fraction of the price, where someone has craftily tapped into a legitimate feed and siphoned off data to an illegitimate end-point, which then re-sells the data it obtained for free at a premium. Like if your local pub tapped into the cable TV from the guy next door who pays for all the expensive sports packages, then charged customers an entry fee to watch events on its pirate cable.

In this instance, the vendor professed not to be aware of the restrictions, and quickly made good by removing the article and replacing it with a link to the story on our website, which is something we encourage, since (a) it doesn’t cannibalize our content, and (b) it drives potential subscribers to our sites, where they can see the array of content on offer. (A quick plug for our sales team: if you’re featured in any of our publications and want a copy of the story for your wall display, your website, for a mailshot, or even to send to your mother, we offer custom PDF reprints—for a fee, of course).

However, in an industry that deals with content licensing every day—and where the consequences of non-compliance can prove very costly, such as in the cases of exchange audits and retroactive penalty fees (which we don’t charge, though we do cancel subscriptions of persistent offenders)—it staggers me how many people are either simply unaware of basic, standard principles around re-using data, or are perhaps willfully ignorant of them. A former CEO of a data vendor once admitted flagrantly re-using our content without permission, and justified it by saying that because he was so important and well-known, it would actually benefit us to have his validation of our stories.

True, many—possibly the majority of—instances of misuse are innocent misunderstandings, perhaps because it’s so common in this day and age to be able to access content for free, and to be able to share it through multiple channels, such as social media. And that’s why data sources utilize sophisticated entitlements processes to permission users and monitor usage. For example, the recent integration of Alliance News’ content into MetaQuotes’ trading platforms doesn’t mean all MetaQuotes clients automatically get Alliance’s news feed—first, they must go through a permissioning process. And meanwhile, under the Japan Exchange’s new data policy, client firms may be charged additional fees if they access its data via providers that don’t have strict controls in place to ensure proper usage and reporting. End-user firms often feel like exchanges are just looking for ways to catch them out and charge penalties, but in my experience, those exchanges would rather collect the correct fees today than miss out and charge penalties later.

To wrap up my rant, let me give some props to our friends at Platts, where one staffer recently politely requested that I send them the text of a story for their records because—while their colleague had a valid subscription to IMD, the individual in question didn’t want to break the terms of that license by asking their colleague to share their login details. So thanks, Platts, for understanding and respecting entitlements, rather than just acting entitled.

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