Testing Times: Zee-Bhaskar seek damages over media campaign

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: After reporting news, media companies are making news. Literally.

The Subhash Chandra-promoted Essel group and Bhopal-based Bhaskar group have dragged the big daddy of news paper business, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd, publishers of Times of India and Economic Times, to court over breach of copyright laws relating to a media campaign and sought Rs. 1,000 million in damages, apart from an apology.

The civil suit, filed by the Essel-Bhaskar combine through Diligent Media in Mumbai high court, was heard today.

The petitioner has claimed that its advertisement campaign for a proposed print medium product --- `SPEAK UP, ITS IN YOUR DNA (Daily News and Analysis)'; was "hijacked" by the Times of India group to suit a campaign for Maharashtra Times, a publication of the Times group. It has also been stated that the action of the rival amounted to infringement of copyright laws with a view to derive "unfair business advantage."

When contacted, Essel Group vice-president Ashish Kaul said, "It certainly was disappointing to see a group of repute indulge in unfair practices."

When contacted, The Times of India brand director Rahul Kansal says, "TOI has chosen not to comment on this issue for the time being until we formulate what we want to say in this matter."

The matter came up for hearing today in the court of Justice D.G.Karnik. The counsel for the defendant (TOI group), while stating that the plaintiff had offered not to pursue any legal action through a letter dated 29 March if an unconditional apology is tendered, requested time till 4 April from the court to consider the offer.

According to information available the court heard both the sides and directed Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd not to issue any further advertisements similar or of the same nature as that of the plaintiff. The matter will be heard on Monday.

The Essel-Bhaskar combine, which had announced plans of launching Hindi and English newspapers, had plastered the whole of Mumbai with a teaser campaign that had a picture of a man with the tag line `Speak up, It's in your DNA.' Reportedly, the TOI group hurriedly unveiled a campaign, prepared late last week, for a regional newspaper and added the words `Maharashtra Times' to the DNA tagline to read `Speak Up, it's in your DNA--- Maharashtra Times.'

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