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AP, AHN Media settle intellectual property lawsuit

All Headline News admits to improperly using AP content in settlement of intellectual property lawsuit involving "hot news."

AHN Media has agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to the Associated Press to settle a lawsuit in which the AP accused AHN of rewriting AP stories and putting AHN's name on them, the companies announced on Monday.

In the settlement, AHN admitted to improperly using AP content in many instances, according to a joint news release published on the AP Web site.

AHN, which stands for All Headline News, also acknowledges that "the tort of 'hot news misappropriation' has been upheld by other courts and was ruled applicable in this case by U.S. District Court Judge P. Kevin Castel," the companies said.

AHN could not be reached late on Monday and the AP declined to comment further. The case was dismissed June 15, according to Paid Content.

In an effort to protect its intellectual property rights as the journalism industry transitions from the traditional paper-based model to the digital realm where copying and redistributing content is as easy as cut and paste, AP has sent take-down notices to blog sites and sued VeriSign's Moreover news aggregation service. That case was settled.

In the AHN lawsuit, the AP had cited the principle of "hot news," in which the Supreme Court ruled in 1918 that there is a quasi-property right in breaking news and found AP competitor International News Service guilty of unfair competition. The judge in the AHN case earlier in the year had said there could be a valid hot news claim in the case.

The fact that AHN agreed to acknowledge the hot news principle won't necessarily affect other cases, said Fred von Lohmann, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who specializes in intellectual property.

The case "does send a message that the AP is serious about this hot news theory," he said. "Most intellectual property experts view hot news as a very narrow doctrine and the AP is going to have a very hard time protecting all its assets with hot news."

The proliferation of blog sites will make it particularly difficult, von Lohmann said. "The AP needs to be careful lest they end up in the same shoes as the recording industry with tens of millions of targets with no effective way to enforce" the doctrine, he said.