|February 2, 2009|
|FT Stands Tall in Copyright Suit Against Blackstone|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|The financial media have it tough enough these days. The last thing they need is to be nickel-and-dimed to death by one of Wall Street’s top private equity firms. |
That’s the takeaway from the squabble between the Financial Timesand The Blackstone Group.
FT alleges Blackstone ripped off its website via login abuse or accessing the site countless times companywide via a single subscription. FT complains it was stiffed of its annual $179 to $299 sub price over and over again until the publisher “disabled the credential to mitigate damages.” FT says it discovered “massive unlawful multiple access to a subscription with an individual user’s credentials.” Those credentials got access to “thousands of individual articles on FT.com, far more than an individual would normally access,” says the complaint filed Jan. 28 in U.S. District Court (Southern District of New York).
FT has fired off copyright infringement and computer fraud charges and is looking for compensatory damages. The media world needs to rally around the British publisher. Blackstone, according to a report in Wall Street Journal, says it is surprised by the suit, and began settlement talks with the FT.
This blogger is shocked by Blackstone’s incredible chutzpah. Blackstone is “surprised” the FT is attempting to protect its online business. FT’s business model is based on getting people to pay (not freeload) for its information. According to the complaint, FT has “turned FT.com into a powerhouse destination for persons seeking articles of interest and premium business information.
Unlike many other websites, FT.com thrives on a subscription model and attracts subscribers who are willing to pay annual subscription fees.” Those fees allow FT to field and pay a staff of reporters to track down and report the information that Blackstone wants and allegedly stole.
One would think Blackstone, which has its PR own problems, would avoid picking a fight with the FT. Blackstone’s woes include a negative $502M “economic net income” (read: red ink) during the 2008 third-quarter and a stock price pegged under $5 per share (a far cry from its $31 a share IPO in '07.)
Blackstone is headed by Stephen Schwarzman, who famously threw himself a $3M 60th birthday bash two years ago. Held at the Park Avenue Armory, the bash was a non-stop gourmet orgy for the swells of the financial world. Aging crooner Rod Stewart performed for the gang for a $1M fee. That party was viewed by many as a shining example of the wretched excess of Wall Street.
Wall Street and the rest of the financial world have been humbled since that shindig, which attracted the likes of now former corporate titans CEOs such as Stan O’Neal (Merrill Lynch), John Thain (BankAmerica) and Jimmy Cayne (Bear Stearns).
Schwarzman should get with the times. Order your minions to write a check to the FT. Check to see to see if Blackstone is ripping off any other websites. If so, fork over cash. It is the right thing to do.
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