HotNewsStamp As the print newspaper business goes steadily down the tubes, one of the straws that news agencies are clutching at is the “hot news doctrine.” This doctrine, originally developed during World War I, was supposed to protect news agencies that did their own legwork by preventing others from simply rewriting and republishing their reports.

Ars Technica reports that big news agencies are trying to revive the doctrine, filing an amicus brief in a case that hinges around a Wall Street investor news site’s ability to republish information snagged from a financial analysis firm before that firm in question can do so itself. (Google and Twitter already filed one of their own opposing it.)

On the one hand, the analysis firm is the one who actually did all the hard work of gathering sources. On the other, facts cannot be protected by copyright, only the arrangement of words expressing those facts. Rewrite the facts in new words and you’re safe. Or would be, but for the matter of “hot news”.

The question is, of what benefit is “hot news” really in this Internet world where a bit of hot news could be reblogged (or Tweeted, or Facebooked) all over the Internet within seconds or minutes of first being broken? A lot of blogs take news articles of interest to their readers and summarize and restate them. (In fact, that’s what I’m doing right now.)

How could a restriction against rewriting news stories be enforced when anyone can “republish” hot news? Are news agencies really going to try to take up arms against a sea of rebloggers? And Mike Masnick at Techdirt points out that even news agencies rely to some extent on rewriting news from other sources.

This is a case that could affect a large chunk of the Internet. Hopefully the court will come to a sensible decision.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail