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Dow Jones and Briefing.com settle "hot news" lawsuit

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dow Jones & Co and the financial news service Briefing.com have agreed to a settlement of a copyright lawsuit, in which the latter has admitted to misappropriating "hot news" and headlines for its website.

Briefing.com agreed to pay an unspecified sum to Dow Jones, a unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, and admit to liability for infringing Dow Jones' copyrights in published articles. Dow Jones called the payment "substantial."

In addition, Briefing.com agreed to a permanent injunction against further infringement, and to give Dow Jones free access to its website so it can be monitored.

The lawsuit is one of a handful of battles among financial news providers over the alleged misappropriation of "hot news," and whether it infringes copyright law or the media's ability to publish under the First Amendment.

Such information often comes in the form of breaking news, including analyst research on whether to buy or sell particular stocks, that can cause stock prices to rise or fall.

Dow Jones said Briefing.com admitted to copying parts of more than 100 articles, in violation of federal copyright law.

"This settlement demonstrates that such actions are not resolved with a simple slap on the wrist, but have significant financial repercussions," Mark Jackson, general counsel for Dow Jones, said in a statement.

The settlement was approved on November 13 by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan, and made public on Monday.

Melise Blakeslee and John Lovi, lawyers for Briefing.com, did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Robert LoBue, an outside lawyer for Dow Jones, was also unavailable.

In its April 20 lawsuit, Dow Jones had accused Chicago-based Briefing.com of systematically republishing its news without permission, often verbatim.

As an example, it said that from January 29 to February 12, 2010, Briefing.com copied 72 headlines and large parts of 107 articles within a few minutes of their appearance on Dow Jones Newswires, without "journalistic effort" on its own part.

Dow Jones had contended that by republishing its work, Briefing.com was getting a "free ride" on its efforts.

In August, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard financial news service Theflyonthewall.com Inc's appeal of an injunction limiting its ability to quickly publish analyst research from Bank of America Corp's Merrill Lynch unit, Barclays Plc and Morgan Stanley.

Google Inc and Twitter Inc are among the companies supporting Theflyonthewall.com's attempt to overturn that injunction. A decision is expected in the coming months.

Thomson Reuters Corp and other providers compete with Dow Jones in providing real-time news.

The case is Dow Jones & Co v. Briefing.com Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 10-03321.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)