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Judge approves AP's online news copying suit

'Hot news doctrine' survives internet

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The Associated Press can proceed with a copyright infringement lawsuit against an online news aggregation service after a federal judge ruled a century-old US Supreme Court ruling applies to the internet.

In a ruling issued Tuesday, US District Judge Kevin Castel shot down arguments that the so-called "hot news doctrine" did not apply. The US Supreme Court established the principle in 1918 in another case brought by the AP. While facts generally can't be copyrighted, companies can sue for misappropriation when their time-sensitive "hot news" is copied by others, the doctrine holds.

This week's ruling came in a case the AP filed last year against AHN, or All Headline News. In it, the AP claims that AHN copies AP stories and then posts them to its own website as part of a service it sells to customers. AHN employees remove information that identifies AP as the source, the suit contends.

The AP's case is important because it could help define the rules of engagement for 21st Century news reporting, where journalists and bloggers increasingly borrow, recycle, and quote large sections of articles published by competitors, often with little or no attribution.

AHN had argued in court documents that the suit should be dismissed because the hot news doctrine was superseded by copyright legislation passed subsequent to the Supreme Court decision.

Although many of the facts in the article you're reading now were confirmed by reading the ruling, it's worth noting that some of the background information was supplied by this article from the AP. ®

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