Bloomberg Beats Lawsuit for Allegedly Ripping Off "Hot News"

A D.C. court was tasked with deciding whether news organizations could be stopped from "free riding" on other publishers' scoops.
Melanie Dunea

A federal judge in the District of Columbia is granting Bloomberg L.P. the victory in defending claims the news organization its misappropriating the hard work of other journalists. 

The lawsuit came from DBW Partners, which puts out a subscription report about public policy called Capitol Forum. According to the plaintiff, Bloomberg has been surreptitiously obtaining reports, and within minutes, republishing summaries for its own subscription news services. The legal action gained attention in media circles thanks to a claim of "hot news" misappropriation, recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court a century ago in International News Service v. Associated Press, but called "no longer good law" by Bloomberg in a motion to dismiss.

DBW Partners aimed to punish Bloomberg's “free riding” with the claim that republishing information in the summaries weakened the value of its reports and drove away subscribers.

Bloomberg responded that media companies can't hold monopolies over the news.

"In a world of citizen journalists and commentators, online news organizations, and broadcasters who compete 24 hours a day, news can no longer be contained for any meaningful amount of time," wrote Bloomberg's attorneys at Quinn Emanuel. "Because it would be impossible to craft and enforce a rule restricting the dissemination of readily accessible factual information, this Court should acknowledge that 'hot news' misappropriation cannot be practically or fairly applied and should not be recognized under D.C. law."

U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton has accepted Bloomberg's argument and is dismissing the case, though in a short order Monday, he wrote he doesn't have a full opinion ready just yet. That should be coming in the next 60 days.

Once it comes, the judgment will be rendered final, and the case is likely to move to appeal where a federal appellate circuit will get an opportunity to consider competition and intellectual property in the digital news age.