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CCBN cracks down on conference calls

The Webcasting company that hosts investor-relations sites for more than 2,500 businesses is trying to stop unauthorized distribution of conference calls.

    In another case of a company trying to prevent its material from being sent willy-nilly across the Internet, a Webcasting company is trying to crack down on unauthorized distribution of financial conference calls.

    CCBN, which hosts the investor-relations Web sites for more than 2,500 companies, has been sending letters to its client companies, asking them to help it rein in rampant sharing of the calls.

    CCBN is urging the companies to include the following sentence on their Web sites: "This call is the property of (company). Any redistribution retransmission, or rebroadcast of this call in any form without the express written consent of (company), is strictly prohibited."

    As the Internet makes it easier to copy and redistribute material of all types to millions of people, companies that created the content have tried all types of maneuvers to stop sharing. In the most extreme example, the record industry sued--and successfully hobbled--Napster for letting people swap songs for free.

    The question of whether a company can prevent redistribution of conference calls is a muddy one, especially since new regulations requiring equal public disclosure of financial information went into effect last year. Though companies once could restrict such calls to favored analysts, they now are under legal pressure to open them up to as many people as possible.

    Even CCBN acknowledges that its proposed restrictions may not pass legal muster.

    "While it is unclear whether this language is legally enforceable, it may deter the majority of unauthorized Webcasters," the company wrote in its note to clients.