Australia's media monitoring industry has been hit by allegations of phoney accounts used to service big name clients

Elizabeth street, Sydney. Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images

A battle being played out in the Federal Court has created a window into the media monitoring industry in Australia with allegations of phoney accounts set up in false names and the hijacking of competitor content to service big name clients.

Media monitoring giant Isentia has gained a court order restraining emerging competitor Meltwater from supplying its customers with television clips and press clippings from Isentia.

Isentia, which has the majority of the market in Australia, made an application to the Federal Court seeking urgent injunctions to restrain Meltwater from using content from Isentia’s media intelligence services in breach of the terms of use of those services.

Meltwater, founded in Norway in 2001 and headquartered in San Francisco, agreed to the injunction but has said it intends to “strenuously defend” the matter.

The company said: “Meltwater willingly consented to the orders on an interim basis without admitting any liability in order to properly meet the allegations, which it will be defending. The allegations are entirely untested. Any suggestion or implication to the contrary is false and any portrayal of this as a finding by the Court in favour of Isentia is misleading.”

In a statement of claim lodged with the court, Isentia says Meltwater set up three fake accounts with Isentia so it could redistribute content to its own customers.

One of the accounts was under the name of Mike Smith, but was paid with a credit card belonging to Meltwater’s Australian managing director, Shasank Mohapatra, who is based in Melbourne, according to the allegations.

Another account was allegedly paid for by a credit card in the name of the wife of the Meltwater managing director. A third was in the name of Lisa Carey and paid for by two staff members of Meltwater.

Isentia says the content was used by Meltwater to service big name clients including Sydney Water, Coca-Cola Amatil, Activision and the University of Wollongong.

“No suggestion is made that any of these clients had knowledge of this scheme by Meltwater,” says Isentia in documents lodged with the Federal Court.

“Over the 12 months of Meltwater’s access, Isentia obtained two emails indicating that Meltwater was illegally obtaining television and press clippings through the three accounts.

“Meltwater were actively advertising that some of their packages included ‘PDF print monitoring through Slice Media’. Meltwater had no capability to offer this service.”

Isentia also says it has evidence that Meltwater has connections to an organisation in India which appears to be systematically scraping content from Isentia’s services to effectively “free-ride” on Isentia’s technology, copyright licences and rights with publishers.

In a statement, Meltwater says it “does not condone or promote activities such as claimed by Isentia”.

Isentia shares have recently been dragged down by problems with the company’s content division.

However, Isentia CEO John Croll last month confirmed revenue for 2017 is tracking to the consensus estimate of $162 million.

Underlying EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) is also running to consensus estimates of $44 million.

Isentia was founded in 1982 by advertising pioneer Neville Jeffress, was bought in 2011 private equity company Quadrant and changed its name from Media Monitors Group in 2012. It floated on the ASX in June 2014.

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