Monday, 23 February 2009

The "hot news" doctrine

The AP reports that U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Castel in the Southern District of New York has reaffirmed a 1918 legal doctrine known as the "hot news" doctrine. The judge issued an order (16 page pdf) allowing a case brought by the AP (Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp.) to proceed because the "hot news doctrine" applies. All Headline News had claimed that the doctrine was superseded by subsequent federal copyright law. This may be the first case to apply the U.S. Supreme Court's 90-year-old doctrine to news dissemination over the Internet. All Headline News Corp. employees search the Internet for news stories for republication, sometimes after rewriting the text but often replicating the stories in full. According to the AP, many of AHN's stories are based on the AP's work, but are republished as being originated by AHN. Facts generally cannot be copyrighted, but in International News Service v. Associated Press 248 U.S. 215 (1918), the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the injunction of the lower court that "restrains any taking or gainfully using of the complainant's news, either bodily or in substance from bulletins issued by the complainant or any of its members, or from editions of their newspapers, 'until its commercial value as news to the complainant and all of its members has passed away.' "
Justice Brandeis wrote a vigorous dissent to this opinion.

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