NEWS21 July 2010

Truck Ads CEO accuses Nielsen of ‘harassment’ over DMA court case

Legal North America

US— The chief executive of Truck Ads, an outdoor advertising firm currently embroiled in a legal battle with Nielsen, has accused the audience measurement giant of “burdening and harassing” his company.


Nielsen first launched legal proceedings against Truck Ads – which specialises in mobile billboards and placing adverts on the side of lorries – in mid-2008, alleging that the outdoor advertising agency was unlawfully using Nielsen’s US designated marketing area (DMA) maps in its work.

The ratings firm says the DMA maps are proprietary and divide the country into several regions to “form an exclusive geographic area in the US in which local television viewing is measured by Nielsen”. Truck Ads divides up the country in a similar way, but Nielsen claims that the ad agency “uses and reproduces copyrighted DMA maps to define these geographic regions”.

As a result, Nielsen launched court proceedings for injunctive relief and damages.

Truck Ads CEO Rod Harris said that his firm’s DMA maps have not violated any US copyright laws because “copyright law does not protect ‘facts, ideas, systems or methods of operation’”. Harris said that the Truck Ads DMA maps received a registered US copyright in 2005 and do not infringe the Nielsen ones because they were designed in-house and do not resemble the ratings firm’s DMA maps.

Furthermore, he claims that DMA markets were originally determined by TV broadcast signal strength and reach, and that counties and county lines within DMA boundaries are “facts” which “makes the media market size and shape non-copyrightable”.

“Although Truck Ads has been unfairly burdened and harassed by Nielsen Media Research for over five years,” Harris said, “we are committed to persevering [with the legal action] because a favourable ruling in this landmark ‘David vs Goliath’ lawsuit will bring an end to the monopolistic arrogance that a large corporation can claim ownership to factual information in the public domain.”

He added that a win for Truck Ads in the case would “also be a win for every newspaper, radio station, advertising company, broadcast, satellite and cable TV station, and our individual rights to use DMA maps and data freely”.

A Nielsen spokeswoman refused to comment on the case or on Harris’s statement.