"Hot News" Carries a Chill

Posted by andreaitis on February 22, 2009

I haven’t seen a ton of coverage about this, but maybe it’s because I’m not reading law journals.  Still, it strikes me that this is fundamentally interesting in light of all that’s happening as the journalistic battle fields are invaded by digital forces.  Insert your own Star Wars analogy here.

Southern District of New York Judge Kevin Castel rejected a motion to dismiss a claim brought by the AP against All Headline News Corp. (AHN) for misappropriating AP breaking news and presenting it as the work of its own reporters.

The rulings came in The Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp., 08 Civ. 323, a suit where the AP alleged that defendants W. Jeffrey Brown and Danielle George instructed “poorly paid individuals” at All Headline News to locate breaking news stories from other sources and edit them for use under the All Headline News banner.

Many of the reports allegedly came from the AP, which claimed six specific acts of “free riding” on AP articles and claimed that All Headline News personnel were instructed to remove or alter any identification of the AP as the author or copyright holder.

Castel said the federal common law cause of action for misappropriation of “hot news” was first recognized in 1919 by the U.S. Supreme Court in International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215.

Treating breaking or hot news as the “quasi property” of a news organization, the Supreme Court said that allowing one news agency to steal the work of another would “render all publication profitless, or so little profitable as in effect to cut off the service by rendering the cost prohibitive in comparison with the return.”

Judge Recognizes ‘Hot News’ Issue in Copyright Action by AP Service


One Response to “"Hot News" Carries a Chill”

  1. Well, this just seems like a no-brainer to me. You can’t steal other people’s work! If AHN took the AP information and worked it up on their own, with their own reporters making calls, contacting sources – then, I’ve got no problem with that.
    But to simply take the AP info and package it as their own?! That’s just wrong on so many levels.
    By the way, aren’t we all “poorly paid” for what we do? 😉

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