Vendors need to respect analyst firm copyrights

On May 6, 2009 the Gartner Ombudsman blog had the following post Gartner External Use Policy: We Mean It where they called out a vendor by name for copyright violation. The violation was clear: distributing a research note without purchasing reprint rights. Frankly, this sort of blog post is only a slap on the wrist because what is the price that the vendor is going to pay? Lost sales? SageCircle doubts that an enterprise IT manager will not buy the vendor’s products simply because the sales representatives are handing out a research note. 

Of course, Gartner would not do something improper like downgrade the vendor in published research like moving the dot on a Magic Quadrant down and to the left. But there could be other steps taken. Because we were curious about whether Gartner is willing to take further steps we left this comment on the Gartner Ombudsman post: “Besides this post, what other steps is Gartner taking to punish this vendor? Legal? Not permitting the vendor to brief Gartner analysts? Canceling the Gartner contract so the company can no longer talk with analysts via inquiry?” It will be interesting to see if Gartner is willing to take other steps to enforce its copyrights.

Even if this particular vendor does not pay a further price for this violation, vendors must respect all analyst firms’ copyrighted material no matter if the firm is a boutique, a small firm, or large firm. This even includes internal distribution of complete research notes to employees who do not have the contractual right to see it.

While some firms may permit vendors to distribute their copyrighted material, it is their decision to do so for some purpose like raising the firm’s visibility (thus the research distribution provides a marketing value). Every firm has some unique intellectual property that they hold dear and would like to protect. Vendors should make sure that their sales teams and other departments are respecting analyst firms’ copyrights.

SageCircle Technique:

  • AR policies should clearly state the process for obtaining permission to use quotes and reprints
  • Marketing and sales teams should be reminded of copyright restrictions as part of their AR training
  • Vendors should maintain a repository for approved reprints and research that may be distributed.

Bottom Line: IT vendors often get into litigation around software piracy, patent or trademark infringement, or other theft of their intellectual property.  For analyst firms the research is one of their products and deserves the same respect.

Question: AR – Has Gartner ever suggested stronger punishments for copyright violations?

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9 Responses

  1. Good analysis. IP protection is near and dear to our hearts — thanks to Sage Circle for helping the world understand this issue…

  2. Agreed. Over the years I have seen all sorts of vendor violations of analyst firm IP, ranging from leaving very old reports on external web sites, to pre-announcing market share figures in press releases and press outreach, to misquoting or misusing analyst comments. While there is alway some competitive gamesmanship involved in pushing the envelop on quote approvals and report drafts, we should also be guided by our sense of fair play (let alone legal compliance) when handling analyst firm copyrighted material.

  3. In answer to Carter’s question, I am aware of a vendor that was subject to a six-month moratorium on analyst inquiries, reprint privileges and the ability to cite Gartner research because some members of the sales team went cowboy with a report. It wasn’t a first offense. AR needs to clearly and frequently communicate copyright restrictions and usage guidelines to avoid unintentional or deliberate violation. And they must police the organization – especially sales and field marketing – to ensure compliance. That’s part of our job and of maintaining positive analyst relationships.

  4. Gartner is right on the money here, both with the public “outing” – they once ran an ad in the WSJ, as I recall – and in the clarity of the explanation. “Out of context” means a lot, and insisting on using the full document is the usual large analyst firm technique for attempting to ensure misuse is contained.

    The publicity angle is not as punchless as it seems. If the analyst firm clearly and visibly identifies the offender and ther practices, the vendor’s competitors can – and should – point to that in their countermeasures. As for not taking briefings, I disagree. No analyst firm should stop listening if there is something to be learned – even companies that behave badly may make useful products. Whether the analyst-vendor encounter is highly skeptical is another matter.

    Finally, refraining from dispensing paid advice, hopefully led off with “stop behaving badly,” amounts to cutting off my nose to spite your face. I’d pursue all legal remedies and keep talking. I think the State Department calls that “constructive engagement.”

  5. Not “outing” the vendor means that all those playing by the rules get punished for doing so. Gartner made the right move with its blog. However, the administrative punishment should be separate from any analyst-vendor interaction. The wall prevents analysts and clients from being deprived of knowledge-based interaction.

  6. Response to SageCircle comment on original Gartner Ombudsman blog post by Nancy Erskine
    // May 7, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Carter. As I’m sure you can appreciate, the specific steps taken to remedy specific misuses are at the very least sensitive and may be confidential. But I can share the types of actions we take in these instances:

    When a client sends a PDF of a published Gartner document externally (that is, to people outside his or her organization), that’s something we charge for — it goes with the territory. And if they do that without our permission we charge them afterwards.

    We also consider imposing a “ban” on any external use of the Gartner name and research, including the purchase of Gartner media products. A “quote ban” might not seem like a big deal, but with an average of 835 quote requests a month, obviously some clients would feel the pain if Gartner refused all of their requests.

    We would consider the termination of, or refusal to renew, the violator’s contract with Gartner.

    It wouldn’t be right for us to restrict vendors from briefing our analysts as it would compromise the integrity of our research — so this is a step we would not take as a result of one or several violations.

    We realize most, if not all, of these actions result in less revenue and/or exposure for Gartner, but that is the price we are willing to pay to protect our objectivity and independence.

  7. Thanks Carter.

    Much of our content is freely re-distributable, as long as the entire document is included, but we are certainly sensitive to this issue for our reports that are not, and we support our competitors actions to defend their IP.

    Our blog content is all available under a creative commons license, so the issue is a little fuzzier there, but misleading, out-of-context use gets our attention.

  8. Thanks for bringing this up, Carter. Would you mind passing the message on to the media? :)

  9. I’ve not experienced this from the AR perspective. But it turns up on the enterprise user side too. In pricing and contract negotiations there’s certainly a difference between insight service providers who see their research writing as a cash cow and those who see it as the lead-in to the high-value direct relationship between client users and individual analysts.

    Of course, the model needs to suit the organisation’s culture. But with the former, access is for the few; the provider may audit who’s using their content and even invoke penalties. With the latter, you can get the research out into the enterprise IT community, build a strong relationship, and create a culture where the analysts’ insight is valued – and therefore influential – across the organisation.

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