Misappropriation and William Randolph Hearst

85px-William_Randolph_Hearst_cph_3a49373While reading a biography of Hearst, I came across something I did not know about International News Service v. Associated Press, the 1918 Supreme Court decision that established the misappropriation doctrine.  The case was brought by AP, which claimed that INS (a rival wire service) was reprinting its news reports about the fighting during World War I verbatim and without attribution.  The Court held that this behavior was unlawful because the AP had “quasi-property” rights in their dispatches.  When I teach this case, the usual takeaway is that INS was “free-riding” on the AP because it was cheaper to borrow than to have their own correspondents in Europe to cover the war.

Here’s the missing part.  INS was Hearst’s wire service, and Hearst was strongly anti-British and opposed America’s entry into the War.  Eventually, the British Government kicked his reporters out of the country because they were deemed hostile propagandists.  Thus, Hearst could not cover the war without borrowing from the AP.  A little more imagination could lead to the conclusion that the Court’s holding in INS was a form of punishment for Hearst’s political views — a kind of wartime censorship — but I do not yet have any direct evidence for that interpretation.

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2 Responses

  1. Steve M. says:

    Does this tidbit make the dissents more interesting?

  2. Gerard Magliocca says:


    Yes, in the sense that it’s Brandeis and Holmes (though Holmes argued that a disclaimer was necessary). They are, of course, the pair that dissented in many of the subsequent First Amendment cases.