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Proprietary Research Isn't Shareware

Cramer responds to readers who've emailed him about getting Lehman Brothers' 'Ten Uncommon Values' stock list.
Author:

The great difficulty for offline brokers in this era will be to try to find proprietary content that can't be ripped off and has added value intrinsic to their own brokerage sales force.

Frankly, I don't know how they are going to do it.

Yesterday I

wrote positively about

Lehman Brothers'

"Ten Uncommon Values" list. In a market where there really isn't much

cooking, the talk of hedge funds is trying to anticipate what will be on the list. The list moves stocks, and it's extremely proprietary to Lehman.

Or so I thought.

On my way home, I switched on my PC and my mobile modem, and was prepared to download the four or five emails that come in while I am traveling from the office to my home in New Jersey.

I knew there was something wrong the moment I dialed in. I had received 27 messages from the time I had left the office to the time I got through the Holland Tunnel.

Each one had the exact same request:

Can I get the Lehman Brothers' list from you?

Some wanted it beforehand -- dream on. Some wanted it instantaneously. Others felt it was the site's mandate to print the names of the 10 stocks simply because I had talked about the list.

Oh boy, are these brokerages in trouble!

The list

belongs

to Lehman Brothers -- not to me, or to

TheStreet.com

. It is a developed product, a proprietary product that the firm uses to develop new business.

Lehman Brothers is not a charity; it's a brokerage. It's not a newspaper; it's an investment house.

But the Internet has changed everything. People feel that

all

information, even information belonging to brokerage houses, should be freely and equally distributed,

TheStreet Recommends

whether you're a client or not

.

I answered the first few letters by simply saying you have to be a client of Lehman Brothers to get the list. But the letters had flooded my mailbox by the time I got home, so I decided I'd better write this piece to respond.

Consider, though, how the world has changed. I took it for granted that one of the pleasures of having a Lehman account was getting a morning call, before the opening, going over the 10 stocks and why they were selected. That would give me time to analyze whether there was anything I could be buying from the list.

But I also took it for granted that if you didn't have a Lehman account, you had to open one to get the information. I mean, that was the point of coming up with the list.

The Net revolution has changed investors' sense of entitlement. It will never be the same.

Random musings:

Speaking of entitlement, one of the companies that underwrote

TheStreet.com

,

Thomas Weisel Partners

, held a conference of companies yesterday and made that conference closed to the press, including

TheStreet.com

.

I thought that was wrong. Maybe I am just some

Harvard

lawyer splitting hairs here, but though I respect a brokerage's right to own a list of stock ideas, I don't respect public companies that bar the press from substantive, material meetings and I don't support those brokerages that are complicit in selective disclosure.

These meetings should be open to the press. That doesn't mean the question-and-answer session has to be open, in the same way I don't want the press getting in the Q&A queue on conference calls. But any brokerage-sponsored meeting where some shareholders can hear something should be open to the press as well. The information belongs to the shareholders, not to the brokerages.

Strange reactions. People seemed to be oblivious to the idea of bad news from

Philip Morris

(MO) - Get Altria Group Inc Report

last night. With a few minutes left of trading, news came out that Philip Morris' international business was bad. I was able to sell without any problem at a price that was still up! That's summer complacency for you. The stock is now looking down a buck and and three quarters from where you could have dumped hundreds of thousands of shares.

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at

jjcletters@thestreet.com.