Online WSJ subscribers: Dow Jones acted unreasonably

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wsj.com

A group of online subscribers to The Wall Street Journal told the Second Circuit on Wednesday that Dow Jones & Co. did not act reasonably when it stopped providing access to some of its Web content, urging the appeals court to reverse a district court’s summary judgment ruling.

Sean McLernon of Law360.com writes, “A New York federal judge allowed Dow Jones to escape the putative class action suit in March, finding that Dow Jones had acted reasonably and within its rights under the subscriber agreement when it stopped providing access to content from financial publication Barron’s Online. In Thursday’s brief, four named subscriber class action plaintiffs claim that whether the company acted reasonably is a triable issue of fact.

“While Dow Jones contends that discontinuing or changing services are essential to an online publication service because the business demands “constant updates, improvements and innovations,” the subscribers argue that the changes could not be accurately described as an upgrade of its news and informational content.

“‘In fact, WSJ.com was diminished by the removal of Barron’s Online content,’ the brief said. ‘Instead, the purpose of the Barron’s Online spinoff was simply for Dow Jones to make more money from its annual WSJ.com subscribers by launching a separate subscription service. As Dow Jones’ research showed, current WSJ.com subscribers were the best potential market for a separate Barron’s Online subscription product.’

“The plaintiffs, who prepaid for a year’s subscription to the Journal online, which included access to Barron’s Online, said they were injured when Dow Jones removed free access to Barron’s Online in January 2006. At that time, Dow Jones requested an additional $20 per year for access to the newly revamped Barron’s, according to the complaint.”

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