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International News Service v. Associated Press

    Citation. 248 U.S. 215, 39 S. Ct. 68, 63 L. Ed. 211,1918 U.S.

    Brief Fact Summary. This case involves a question of unfair competition between two news collecting companies when one company reproduced the others news as their own.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. There is a quasi property interest in news collected by an agency against other news collection agencies. It is unfair business competition for a news collection agency to distribute the news collected by another news collection agency.


    Facts. The Complainant, the Associated Press (Complainant) and the Defendants, International News Services (Defendants) are both involved in the news collection business. The collected news is distributed by the parties to newspapers around the county. Both parties are in direct competition with each other. The Defendants were involved in collecting news posted by the Complainant on bulletin boards and newspapers and then reproducing this news as their own work. This action was filed by the Complainant arguing that this copycatting of the news constituted unfair competition.

    Issue. Whether the Defendant can be lawfully restrained under theories of interference with Complainant’s property rights in the news and unfair competition, from appropriating news taken from bulletins issued by Complainant or any of its members, or from newspapers published by them, for the purpose of selling it to Defendants’ clients.

    Held. Affirmed. In the present case there is unfair competition by the Defendants, as two competing parties are endeavoring to make money and Defendants are misappropriating Complainant’s quasi property interest in the news it collected and misrepresenting it as their own.

    Discussion. In determining whether a news collecting agency has property rights in the news the consideration needs to be whether an agency has a property right in news it collected versus other collecting agencies, rather than against the public. The business of making this news known to world, when the parties to the case are competitors in the field creates a quasi property interest in the news between them. It is unfair competition when one party interferes with the normal operation of another’s legitimate business precisely at the point where profit is to be reaped, in order to divert a material portion of the profit from those who have earned to those who have not.

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