Everything Old is Still Relevant: Judge Reaffirms 1918 “Hot News” Doctrine

Who owns the news?! No doubt as more news transitions online and more news organizations depend on online revenue (whatever form that may take) to survive we will see more cases like these go to court. In the meantime it appears the AP is one step closer to making its “hot news” case.

A federal judge has reaffirmed that a 1918 legal doctrine governing “hot news” applies in the Internet age by allowing The Associated Press to proceed with a lawsuit accusing a company of redistributing AP breaking news without permission.

Although Tuesday’s ruling does not break new legal ground, it applies a principle to a medium that has dramatically increased the speed at which such news travels.

Without ruling on the merits of the case, U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel said the AP’s lawsuit against AHN Media Corp. and All Headline News Corp. can proceed because the so-called hot news doctrine applies. The defendants had claimed it was superseded by subsequent federal copyright law.

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.”