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Takeover Panel claims copyright on regulatory information

Posted by Graeme in Business & Investment,Internet at 5:50 am on Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Takeover Panel (which regulated mergers and takeovers inn the UK) has sent me an email telling me that reproducing the list of takeover offers (i.e. a list of company names and dates) would be a breach of copyright, and that they would be unlikely to allow commercial reproduction except though “official news channels”.

For those unfamiliar with financial markets what they are claiming is that using information on their website (the “disclosure table”) to produce a list like this:

  1. Acme plc is subject to a bid by None plc. Offer made 12th December 2012. Bidder name disclosed 5th January 2013.
  2. Another plc is subject to a bid by an undisclosed bidder. Started 10th January 2013/

for about a dozen lines is a breach of copyright.

This seems entirely wrong to me for several reasons:

  1. The information should be as widely circulated as possible, and impeding its distribution makes markets less efficient. This is the opposite of what the Takeover Panel should be doing.
  2. It impedes people’s ability to comment on the table, and therefore to comment on the market. This, again, is the opposite of what the Panel should want to achieve.
  3. The information is not created by the Takeover Panel, it is reported to them by the companies concerned.
  4. A regulator of markets should not be a manager of copyright works. Unlike a commercial publisher it has a monopoly and it should not seem to exploit this in any way.
  5. It is a collection of facts, not a creative work. I only want the information not the layout or arrangement. It is also doubtful whether it falls under database right (which they are not claiming anyway) given the table itself required no real effort to compile.
  6. It is news, and it was never an (admitted?) intention of copyright law to impede the distribution of news.

As an aside for those more interested in copyright than financial markets, this is yet another counter example to the argument that copyright provides an incentive to create works. The Takeover Panel would have no choice but to produce the table whether or not copyright existed, but given copyright they choose to exercise it.

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