By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dow Jones & Co on Thursday filed a lawsuit accusing the London-based service known as Ransquawk of illegally accessing its news feed, and broadcasting its content within seconds of publication to traders and other subscribers.
The lawsuit by Dow Jones, a unit of News Corp (NSQ:NWSA), is the latest to test the rarely-invoked doctrine of "hot news" misappropriation, where news providers try to stop aggregators from getting a "free ride" on journalism and other content that can take much time and expense to create.
Ransquawk, whose formal name is Real-Time Analysis & News Ltd, operates a "squawk" service that broadcasts audio and text feeds of breaking news, including potential market-moving news.
In the complaint filed with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Dow Jones accused it of "nearly instantaneously cutting, pasting, and broadcasting" content from its DJX service, which includes news unavailable to the general public.
By accessing such content without permission, and without its own reporting or analysis, Ransquawk can offer a "pirated product" at a cheaper price, said Dow Jones, whose products include The Wall Street Journal.
"We refuse to sit back when others swoop in to swipe our content," Jason Conti, deputy general counsel of Dow Jones, said in a statement.
According to Ransquawk's website, "8/10 of the world's largest banks" use Ransquawk, in such areas as equities, fixed income, foreign exchange, energy and metals.
Ranvir Singh, the chief executive and a co-founder of Ransquawk, in a email on Thursday said: "Whilst we obviously strongly deny any accusations made against us by Dow Jones both in the U.S. courts and on social media sites we will only be in a position to make a full statement tomorrow."
Dow Jones said it sued after Ransquawk, through its law firm, denied having improperly retransmitted material directly from DJX, and said it obtained the challenged material through Twitter sources, instant messages, and other news services.
The lawsuit accuses Ransquawk of hot news misappropriation and interfering with Dow Jones' contracts. It seeks a halt to any misappropriation, plus at least $5 million of damages.
Dow Jones has pursued similar litigation before, and in November 2010 said it received a "substantial" amount from Briefing.com for misappropriating hot news and headlines for its website.
In June 2011, a federal appeals court in New York found that the website Theflyonthewall.com had not misappropriated hot news by publishing upgrades and downgrades from stock analysts at Barclays Plc (LSE:BARC), Bank of America Corp's (NYS:BAC) Merrill Lynch unit, and Morgan Stanley (NYS:MS).
Dow Jones competes with Reuters in providing real-time news and information.
The case is Dow Jones & Co v. Real-Time Analysis & News Ltd, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-00131.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York)