The cause of action for misappropriation of reports of breaking news, i.e., “hot news” misappropriation, has been around for going on a century, since the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215 (1918). In that landmark case the Court recognized a “quasi property” right in such reports on the part of a news-gathering organization under federal common law.
Survival of the hot news misappropriation claim, and its applicability to online news aggregators, has been the subject of much discussion and debate as news aggregation sites have become ubiquitous on the Internet, on sites ranging from Google News to thousands of more modest offerings. The AP, which was the prevailing plaintiff in the landmark case 90 years ago, has been successful in obtaining settlements with a number of online news aggregators that used its material, including a settlement with Google News in 2006 and a settlement with Moreover and its parent company Verisign last year.
The AP has again made progress in this ongoing battle, this time in its hot news misappropriation lawsuit against online aggregator All Headline News Corp. In this case, the court issued a ruling that recognizes not only the AP’s misappropriation claim, but its claim under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act copyright management provision as well.