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Thursday 14th Dec 2017

I didn’t plan on covering the subject of news aggregators and hot news again, at least not this quickly, but part of being a writer is maintaining flexibility.

To recap last week’s article, I re-iterated the value of player news for those of us competing in fantasy sports – news that is echoed from traditional news-gathering sources by aggregator sites.

At the same time, I expressed caution, providing one very clear example of an aggregator going a bridge too far by trying to provide added value in the form of interpretation of/advice based on the news item. That commentary described a scenario that has such a low chance of occurring that it shouldn’t have been discussed at all with the unidentified analyst probably just plain misinformed.

There should be no need to pound that point deeper into the ground, but in the interim, I have read something that might appear to change matters – at least down the road. Those specializing in news echoing may need to provide color commentary as well just to survive.

This past week, the Associated Press has made the news, rather than solely reporting on it. The venerable news organization filed a lawsuit in New York against a company called Meltwater, reports MediaPost.com.

The suit accuses Meltwater of infringing copyright by "routinely copying verbatim the heart of the AP's and other publishers' news stories and selling that content to its subscribers for a profit."

Apparently the fact Meltwater charges for its services adds insult to the injury of being viewed as adding no incremental value to the content.

"Meltwater contributes no creative content and provides no editorial commentary," says the complaint. "Its business serves no independent purpose other than the distribution of news created by others."

Meltwater is apparently not in the sports business. Their model being fee-based is a differentiator from the many fantasy news aggregators whose services are free. Yet left unchecked, it isn’t difficult to envision where this might lead.

The term “hot news” is referenced often in the legal proceedings. I thought it was a recently-coined term specific to sports. Turns out I was quite wrong on both counts.

AP has accused Meltwater as misappropriating what it calls hot news or time-sensitive scoops by its redistribution of article headlines, excerpts and the like. The hot news concept dates at least back to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1918 that established that rewriting scoops from one entity is actionable as a misappropriation of hot news by another, relates the MediaPost article.

It is far from being a black and white matter.

Copyright law allows owners of content to protect the verbatim reposting of articles, but not of their headlines or the facts within. Courts today often recognize a free speech right to republish information. Just last year, Google and Twitter were among the new media leaders arguing the entire 1918-era concept of hot news is now obsolete.

Yet, this isn’t the first time AP has sued over hot news. Dow Jones has acted in a similar manner. Traditional news organizations such as The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company agree with the AP, calling hot news aggregators "free riders," and fearing their firms could be put out of business as a result.

It will be most interesting to see how this evolves. Certainly there is no indication that anything of substance will change any time soon. With so many big-name players having an interest, the future of “hot news” could be a long and pitched battle.

In the meantime, you shouldn’t have to look over your shoulder, but as I said before, use your 2012 fantasy baseball hot news wisely.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. He finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com and weekly in-season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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