AP Settles “Hot News” Lawsuit With AHN Media

AP logo.pngThe Associated Press announced today that is has settled its intellectual property suit against AHN Media.

The suit, filed in January 2008 in Manhattan district court, claimed AHN had infringed the AP’s copyrights and trademarks by republishing its headlines with attribution. As part of the settlement, AHN acknowledged that “there were many instances in which AHN improperly used AP’s content without AP’s consent,” the companies said in a joint press release today. AHN also agreed to pay the AP an unspecified sum to put the suit to rest.

Earlier this year, this case made news when Judge P. Kevin Castel allowed the AP to proceed with its lawsuit based on a 1918 legal doctrine governing “hot news.”

“Facts generally cannot be copyrighted, but the U.S. Supreme Court held in 1918, in a case also brought by the AP, that companies can sue for misappropriation when rivals copy time-sensitive ‘hot news,'” the AP reported in February at the time of the ruling.

The full release from the AP and AHN after the jump

Everything Old Is Still Relevant: Judge Reaffirms 1918 “Hot News” Doctrine February 19

July 13, 2009

AP and AHN Media settle AP’s lawsuit against AHN Media and individual defendants

NEW YORK — The Associated Press and AHN Media have settled the AP’s intellectual property lawsuit against AHN Media and individual defendants.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in January 2008. It sought unspecified damages and a permanent injunction against misappropriation of AP’s proprietary news reports and against infringement of AP’s copyrights and trademarks.

“AP is pleased to have successfully resolved the litigation through a principled settlement,” said Laura Malone, AP associate general counsel for intellectual property governance.

“AP invests hundreds of millions of dollars to gather and to distribute essential breaking news worldwide that customers legitimately access and use by payment of a license fee,” said Malone. She added that “unauthorized use of these proprietary news reports by copying or rewriting published AP news stories is inimical to the interests of AP and its legitimate licensees.”

In its lawsuit, AP alleged that AHN instructed its staff and contractors, both in the United States and in offshore locations, to source news content of general interest from AP stories upon their publication on established news Web sites. The suit also alleged that AHN instructed its staff to rewrite the AP stories and to submit the rewritten text to AHN’s computers without AP’s name and copyright management information. AP further alleged that AHN then added its own byline to the rewritten version of the AP stories and that AHN then reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed and published the rewritten version of the AP stories in competition with AP’s news services. AHN denied the substantive allegations in the AP’s complaint.

As a result of the lawsuit, and as part of the settlement, the defendants agreed that they would not make competitive use of content or expression from AP stories. Defendants acknowledge there were many instances in which AHN improperly used AP’s content without AP’s consent. Defendants further acknowledge the tort of “hot news misappropriation” has been upheld by other courts and was ruled applicable in this case by U.S. District Court Judge P. Kevin Castel.

The settlement includes payment by AHN to AP of an unspecified sum to settle the AP’s claim for past unauthorized use of AP expression and news content. “This settlement safeguards AP’s investments in journalism, and serves as notice to others that AP will fully defend its intellectual property rights against unfair competition,” added Malone.