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Judge Allows AP Suit Against All Headline News To Proceed

Feb 19, 2009, 7:45 AM
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A federal judge has ruled that The Associated Press can proceed with a lawsuit against All Headline News for rewriting AP news stories on the theory that rewriting articles can be unlawful under New York's "hot news" doctrine.

Federal copyright law holds that facts themselves can't be copyrighted, but New York state still allows news organizations to sue for misappropriation of "hot news." The U.S. Supreme Court gave the nod to New York's law in 1918, when it agreed with the state that news organizations could sue for misappropriation if competitors rewrote their "hot news"--or news that's exclusive to the organization that reported it.

In that case--which also involved the AP--the court reasoned that one news organization should not be allowed to profit from the work of another.

All Headline News unsuccessfully argued that New York's "hot news" doctrine was no longer good law in light of the federal Copyright Act, but federal district court judge Kevin Castel rejected that claim.

Many observers have questioned whether the "hot news" doctrine makes sense in the Internet era, where even news positioned as "exclusive" spreads within minutes of first publication.--Wendy Davis

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