Financial news service Briefing.com settled a lawsuit with Dow Jones & Co. last week after the website admitted to violating the federal Copyright Act and “hot news” doctrine by systematically republishing time-sensitive headlines and articles from Dow Jones.
Chicago-based Briefing.com paid an undisclosed but “substantial” amount of money and admitted culpability in infringing on the Copyright Act by republishing more than 100 of Dow Jones’ articles, according to a Dow Jones press release. The website also admitted breaching the “hot news” doctrine, which bars continuously republishing a news organization’s time-sensitive stories.
Dow Jones filed a lawsuit in April in the U.S. District Court in New York City after it discovered Briefing.com copied and republished more than 100 news articles and 70 headlines within minutes of their publication on the Dow Jones Newswires during a two-week period, the press release said. The Newswires include articles from The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s.
"This settlement demonstrates that such actions are not resolved with a simple slap on the wrist, but have significant financial repercussions," Mark Jackson, general counsel for Dow Jones, said in the release.
In addition to the undisclosed payment, Briefing.com has also agreed to an injunction that bars it from ever infringing upon Dow Jones’ content. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in New York approved the settlement.
Lawyers for Briefing.com did not return calls seeking comment.
The “hot news” doctrine was established in 1918 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in International News Service v. Associated Press that news organizations could obtain injunctions against competitors who continuously misappropriate and republish time-sensitive stories, taking away commercial gain from the original publisher.
The formerly arcane doctrine has recently become a hot-button issue. This year, three major financial firms sued financial news aggregation website Theflyonthewall.com for “hot news” misappropriation after the website circulated the firms’ investment research without approval. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard the news aggregator’s appeal of an injunction in August, but has yet to issue a ruling.
Similarly, the AP settled a lawsuit with website All Headline News in 2009 after the site republished AP stories without attribution.
David Tomlin, associate general counsel for the AP, said he’s skeptical that the Dow Jones case will influence future cases because it is a settlement and because "hot news" cases are usually decided on the case’s individual facts.
“I can only speculate that because intellectual property has been increasingly surfacing as a major topic of interest and sensitivity because of the Internet, every remedy for what content owners view as infringement is going to be tested for its value in every case,” he said.