Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


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A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Journalism and Mass Communications, Under the Supervision of Professor John Bender. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2013

Copyright 2013 Wern Ai Tan


As traditional media scramble to find ways to monetize online content, the ease of digital publishing and online dissemination of news have led to a rise of a new form of news media: News aggregators. News aggregators compile information from journalism websites by various means, often drawing potential readers away from traditional news outlets, thus siphoning off advertising revenue from traditional journalism outlets, with little to no cost to the aggregators. News establishments have sought legal redress by claiming copyright infringement and hot news misappropriation, a state unfair competition common law principle created in 1918. Hot news misappropriation prevents direct competitors from distributing a journalism organization’s time-sensitive news, or “hot news,” for a limited time. But questions have unsettled both aggregators and content creators: How long is hot news protected as “hot?” Does this timed injunction violate the First Amendment? This thesis argues that hot news misappropriation is necessary to protect hot news and that it can do so in a way that does not violate the First Amendment. The hot news doctrine protects a right similar to the right of first publication, but only between direct competitors. Though existing case law is limited, this thesis also reviews past hot news cases and proposes guidelines in deciding the duration of protection of hot news and how they can be uniformly applied through federalization of the doctrine.

Adviser: John Bender