Quasi-Property Rights: Associated Press and the “Hot News” Doctrine

February 22, 2009
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Like many bloggers, I learn which topics are “hot” from aggregators like Techmeme–which in turn automatically aggregate news sources from around the world (though lately they’re also receiving help from human volunteers). I’ve always thought this fell under the doctrine of fair use.

But apparently neither the Associated Press nor the courts think so. As Joe Mullin reports at The Prior Art:

A New York federal judge ruled Tuesday that The Associated Press can sue its competitors not merely for copyright infringement, but for a “quasi property” right in the news known as the “hot news” doctrine.

As Mullin points out, this doctrine seems broad enough to cover any instance where one news organization covers a topic after being “scooped” by a competitor. Surely no one would dream of applying it so broadly, but stranger things have been known to happen.

Intellectual property law is crazy enough without entertaining a world where me-too coverage–or even mere citation–is considered theft. I hope that this lawsuit established a sustainable standard of fair use. I shudder to think that Techmeme could sue me for wri

Like many bloggers, I learn which topics are “hot” from aggregators like Techmeme–which in turn automatically aggregate news sources from around the world (though lately they’re also receiving help from human volunteers). I’ve always thought this fell under the doctrine of fair use.

But apparently neither the Associated Press nor the courts think so. As Joe Mullin reports at The Prior Art:

A New York federal judge ruled Tuesday that The Associated Press can sue its competitors not merely for copyright infringement, but for a “quasi property” right in the news known as the “hot news” doctrine.

As Mullin points out, this doctrine seems broad enough to cover any instance where one news organization covers a topic after being “scooped” by a competitor. Surely no one would dream of applying it so broadly, but stranger things have been known to happen.

Intellectual property law is crazy enough without entertaining a world where me-too coverage–or even mere citation–is considered theft. I hope that this lawsuit established a sustainable standard of fair use. I shudder to think that Techmeme could sue me for writing this post–if Mullin didn’t sue both of us first!

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