Arbitron sues Saga in Milwaukee


Saga Communications, Inc.Well, we know that AEs aren’t allowed to use ratings in selling if the station they work for isn’t a subscriber. And indeed, Saga is not an Arbitron subscriber. However, it looks like staffers and management might have pushed the envelope enough for Arbitron to file a copyright infringement lawsuit in Milwaukee, alleging that Saga’s Lakefront Communications there used copyrighted audience estimates from 2010-2012 to set ad rates and make programming decisions on a regular basis. Arbitron also alleges Saga paid bonuses based on ratings performance.

The ratings company is seeking damages of $150,000 per act of infringement, “the exact amount to be determined at trial, plus an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, plus an award of enhanced damages.”

Saga CEO Ed Christian tells RBR-TVBR: “We have referred it to our intellectual property attorneys for study.”

The suit was filed in the US District Court in Delaware:

“Arbitron’s audience estimates provide detailed pictures of the listening habits of various demographic segments of the listening audience at given times and are used by radio stations and advertisers to determine the rates to charge advertisers for commercial time on a particular station and by radio stations to make programming decisions and to make compensation and bonus decisions.

Defendants have willfully and intentionally infringed Arbitron’s copyrights by copying and distributing copyrighted audience estimates obtained from the Arbitron Reports and Databases without authorization from Arbitron. Beginning in or about September, 2010 and continuing throughout at least the years 2011 and 2012, Defendants’ management and employees regularly obtained copies of Arbitron’s copyrighted audience estimates which were reproduced and circulated among its personnel. These unauthorized copies were then used on a regular and systematic basis by Defendants for various purposes including setting advertising rates charged by Defendants’ radio stations and making programing decisions.

The Arbitron audience estimates also served as one of the bases by which Defendants determined their employee compensation. Defendants decided whether to give their employees bonuses and if so, the size of those bonuses based on the station’s performance in the Arbitron ratings. This system was so widespread, open and notorious at Defendants’ radio stations, that station personnel including senior management commonly referred to the system as the “Arbitron Bonus.” An employee’s “Arbitron bonus” was determined by how well or poorly a particular radio program fared in the Arbitron audience estimates regularly obtained and used by Defendants’ stations without authorization.

Upon information and belief, the copying and use of the Arbitron audience estimates was widespread not only throughout Lakefront’s radio stations but extended to the senior executives of its parent company, Saga, whose executives were aware that Lakefront’s radio stations obtained Arbitron’s copyrighted audience estimates and was reproducing, using and distributing them on a regular basis.

Upon information and belief, Defendants have received, reproduced and distributed and made use of Arbitron’s Reports and Databases in the various radio markets in which its stations operate. Neither of the defendants have, at any relevant time, been a licensee of the Arbitron Reports and Databases.”

See the full suit here:
052313 Complaint