Billboard brouhaha

When photographer Sharad Haksar set up a shot of a Coca-Cola sign leaning in front of a dry water pump and empty cisterns, he claims he intended to reflect on severe water shortages in several Indian communities near Coca-Cola bottling plants. The plants are alleged to be responsible for water shortages and pollution of water sources throughout India.

But once Haksar's image reached its ultimate destination - a billboard in the Indian city of Chennai - it evoked more than social commentary. It attracted the ire of the world's most ubiquitous soft drink company.

Lawyers for the Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, claim a defamation and trademark infringement lawsuit will be filed against Haksar if the image isn't removed from the billboard. In a letter sent to Haksar on July 11, the lawyers stated that the company will seek the equivalent of $45,000 in damages and expect a written apology for the "incalculable damage to the goodwill and reputation" of Coca-Cola.

In a press release, Haksar says he has no intentions of apologizing for the image, which is "solely an expression of creativity."

According to Coca-Cola spokeswoman Kari Bjorhus, "We welcome an open public dialogue on this public interest issue with Mr. Haksar in India. We wish to settle it amicably."??

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Wednesday August 10, 2005 12:04 am EDT
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