SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
326 U.S. 1
ASSOCIATED PRESS ET AL. v. UNITED STATES
No. 57. Argued December 5, 6, 1944 -- Decided June 18, 1945
APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK. *
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.
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 non-members, prohibited members from furnishing spontaneous news to non-members, 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 by-laws 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.
1. The by-laws and the contract, together with the admitted facts, justified summary judgment. Rule 56 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. P. 5.
2. Publishers charged with violating the Sherman Act are subject, no less than others, to the summary judgment procedure. P. 7.
3. The by-laws on their face constitute restraints of trade and violate the Sherman Act. P. 12.
(a) That AP had not achieved a complete monopoly is irrelevant. P. 12.
(b) Trade in news carried on among the States is interstate commerce. P. 14.
(c) The fact that AP's activities are cooperative does not render the Sherman Act inapplicable. P. 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. 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 by-laws no exemption under the Sherman Act. P. 17.
(f) The result here does not involve an application of the "public utility" concept to the newspaper business. P. 19.
(g) Arrangements or combinations designed to stifle competition can not be immunized through a membership device which would accomplish that purpose. P. 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. 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 by-laws controlling membership or otherwise, is not vague and indefinite and is approved. P. 21.
5. The District Court did not err in refusing to hold as a violation of the Sherman Act standing alone (1) the by-laws provision forbidding service of AP news to non-members, (2) the by-laws provision forbidding AP members from furnishing spontaneous news to non-members, or (3) the Canadian press contract; and the court was justified in enjoining their observance temporarily, pending AP's abandonment of the by-laws provision empowering members to block membership applications of competitors. P. 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. 22.
7. The case having been presented on the narrow issues arising out of undisputed facts, it can not 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 non-member newspapers, the District Court's retention of jurisdiction of the cause will enable it to take appropriate action. P. 22.
52 F.Supp. 362, affirmed.
Mr. Justice Black delivered the opinion of the Court. **
* Together with No. 58, Tribune Company et al. v. United States, and No. 59, United States v. Associated Press et al., also on appeals from the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
** In Number 59, all the sitting Justices concur. In Numbers 57 and 58, Mr. Justice Reed, Mr. Justice Douglas and Mr. Justice Rutledge concur. Mr. Justice Frankfurter concurs in that part of the opinion which discusses the District Court's decree but concurs in the judgment of affirmance in a separate opinion.