Associated Press v. United States
326 U.S. 1 (1945)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Associated Press v. United States, 326 U.S. 1 (1945)

Associated Press v. United States

No. 57

Argued December 5, 6, 1944

Decided June 18, 1945*

326 U.S. 1

Syllabus

By-laws of the Associated Press, a cooperative association engaged in gathering and distributing news in interstate and foreign commerce, prohibited service of AP news to nonmembers, prohibited members from furnishing spontaneous news to nonmembers, and empowered members to block membership applications of competitors. A contract between AP and a Canadian press association obligated both to furnish news exclusively to each other. Charging, inter alia, that the bylaws and the contract violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Government sought an injunction against AP and member publishers. Upon the Government's motion, the District Court rendered summary judgment.

Held:

1. The bylaws and the contract, together with the admitted facts, justified summary judgment. Rule 56 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. P. 326 U. S. 5.

2. Publishers charged with violating the Sherman Act are subject, no less than others, to the summary judgment procedure. P. 326 U. S. 7.

3. The bylaws, on their face, constitute restraints of trade and violate the Sherman Act. P. 326 U. S. 12.

(a) That AP had not achieved a complete monopoly is irrelevant. P. 326 U. S. 12.

Page 326 U. S. 2

(b) Trade in news carried on among the States is interstate commerce. P. 326 U. S. 14.

(c) The fact that AP's activities are cooperative does not render the Sherman Act inapplicable. P. 326 U. S. 14.

(d) Although true in a general sense that an owner of property may dispose of it as he pleases, he can not go beyond the exercise of that right and, by contracts or combinations, express or implied, unduly hinder or obstruct the free flow of interstate commerce. P. 326 U. S. 15.

(e) The fact that there are other news agencies which sell news, and that AP's reports are not "indispensable," can give AP's restrictive bylaws no exemption under the Sherman Act. P. 326 U. S. 17.

(f) The result here does not involve an application of the "public utility" concept to the newspaper business. P. 326 U. S. 19.

(g) Arrangements or combinations designed to stifle competition can not be immunized through a membership device which would accomplish that purpose. P. 326 U. S. 19.

(h) Application of the Sherman Act to a combination of publishers to restrain trade in news does not abridge the freedom of the press guaranteed by the First Amendment. Pp. 326 U. S. 19-20.

4. The decree of the District Court, interpreted as meaning that AP news is to be furnished to competitors of members without discrimination through bylaws controlling membership or otherwise, is not vague and indefinite, and is approved. P. 326 U. S. 21.

5. The District Court did not err in refusing to hold as a violation of the Sherman Act standing alone (1) the bylaws provision forbidding service of AP news to nonmembers, (2) the bylaws provision forbidding AP members from furnishing spontaneous news to nonmembers, or (3) the Canadian press contract; and the court was justified in enjoining their observance temporarily pending AP's abandonment of the bylaws provision empowering members to block membership applications of competitors. P. 326 U. S. 21.

6. The fashioning of a decree in an antitrust case, to prevent future violations and eradicate existing evils, rests largely in the discretion of the trial court. P. 326 U. S. 22.

7. The case having been presented on the narrow issues arising out of undisputed facts, it cannot be said that the District Court's decree should have been broader, and, if the decree in its present form should prove inadequate to prevent further discriminatory trade restraints against nonmember newspapers, the District Court's retention of jurisdiction of the cause will enable it to take appropriate action. P. 326 U. S. 22.

52 F.Supp. 362, affirmed.

Page 326 U. S. 3

Appeals from a decree of a district court of three judges in a suit by the United States to enjoin alleged violations of the Sherman Act.

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