LawFuel.com – Legal Newswire –
For the First Time in the Internet Era, Court Upholds Validity of Hot-News Misappropriation Claim by News Service; Finds That Claim Can Be Asserted Separately From Copyright Infringement
DLA Piper announced today that it has obtained an important decision for The Associated Press, one of the world’s largest and oldest news organizations, recognizing AP’s right to prevent unauthorized reselling of AP’s “hot news” stories by a competing Internet news service.
In a decision released on February 17, 2009, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York held that AP was entitled to sue AHN Media Corp., All Headline News Corp., W. Jeffrey Brown and Danielle George for “hot-news” misappropriation as well as copyright infringement. The hot-news doctrine, first announced by the United States Supreme Court in a 1918 case also brought by AP, permits a news service to sue for misappropriation when a competitor systematically copies the plaintiff service’s time-sensitive hot news. This is the first decision to apply the hot-news doctrine to material copied from and retransmitted via the Internet.
“The Southern District’s decision is an important victory for AP and other news organizations in the Internet Age. AP invests millions of dollars annually to gather and report timely, breaking news,” said Andrew L. Deutsch, a partner in DLA Piper’s Intellectual Property and Technology practice and lead counsel for AP in the case.
“Today, the public’s appetite for news is greater than ever, and it often turns to the Internet Web sites of AP licensees and members to get its news. However, free riders, with only a few keystrokes and without incurring the cost of investing in real journalism, can now copy published AP news stories from the Web and resell those stories in direct competition with AP and others. Unless stopped, this free-riding will destroy the incentive of AP and others to gather the news, to the public’s ultimate detriment.”
“The Southern District’s decision sends the message that even in the Internet age, the law will still protect the interests of news organizations, their licensees, and the public, against unfair competition,” added Deutsch.
AP’s complaint claimed that AHN Media Corp. copied breaking AP news stories from the Internet Web sites of AP clients, then promptly redistributed the stories on AHN’s own web site and through a service directed to news distributors. AP asserted that this conduct not only infringed AP’s copyright in its stories, but misappropriated AP’s substantial investments in its newsgathering infrastructure and thus unfairly competed with AP.
The defendants sought dismissal of the hot-news claim because they argued Florida law applied and did not recognize the hot-news doctrine. They further argued that the Copyright Act preempted hot-news claims.
The Southern District rejected both arguments, finding that because AP is based in New York, the laws of New York state apply; that New York recognizes hot-news claims; and that such claims are not superseded by copyright law and may be asserted in tandem with copyright claims. The case will now proceed to a ruling on the merits.
Deutsch noted, “We are pleased to have represented AP throughout this case and we are confident about prevailing in the next stages of litigation.”