Case of copyright infringement by former employees

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There have been Intellectual property disputes between the recently launched English news channel Republic TV, and Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL), the owner of Times Now TV channel. Their bone of contention began with disputes over trademarks. Previously, the two organizations were challenging each other over the usage of the phrase ‘the nation wants to know’ and ‘nation wants to know’. 

In a recent development, on 16th May 2017, Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL) lodged a complaint against Arnab Goswami, the founder of the Republic TV, and journalist Prema Sridevi for infringing its copyright. BCCL alleged offenses of theft, criminal breach of trust, misappropriation of property and infringement of IPR by using the same on Republic TV in several instances on May 6 and May 8, 2017.

On May 6, Republic TV broadcast information related to Lalu Prasad Yadav. This broadcast included audio tapes of telephone conversations between Lalu Prasad Yadav (former Bihar Chief Minister) and Shahabuddin (a criminal turned politician). May 8 saw a broadcast on Republic TV of information related to the late Sunanda Pushkar (wife of politician Shashi Tharoor), including a recording of an interview between Sridevi (in her capacity as an employee of Times Now) and the now deceased Sunanda Pushkar.

BCCL alleged that these audio tapes and research were accessed by Goswami and Sridevi while they were employed by Times Now. It is to be noted that Goswami was the president and the editor-in-chief of news channels Times Now and ET Now until November 01, 2016.

The second hearing of this case took place in the Delhi High Court on Friday, the 26th of May. According to BCCL, the procurement and the use of information belonging to BCCL without their knowledge and consent amounted to a breach of terms of the employment contract of Goswami.

In their defense, Republiv TV submitted that they did not violate the clauses of the employment agreement and had no intention of doing so. They also denied all allegations of intellectual property infringement. Further, they submitted that these allegations were levelled against them by Times Now due to a fall in their ratings and a loss of viewership due to the spectacular launch of Republic TV.

The Delhi high court restrained Times Group and Republic TV from quoting or broadcasting the details of the court proceedings against each other in the ongoing case of theft and copyright infringement. However, Justice Manmohan clarified that the restriction is not applicable against third parties. He also added that the two channels could continue to broadcast and report on any judicial order or judgment in the case. The next hearing of this case is scheduled on 31 August.

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