Delhi High Court has recently passed an interim order to prevent the unlawful use of Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan’s name, image and voice. The court, through its order, restrained persons at large from infringing the personality rights of the actor.

 

What are ‘personality rights’?

  • Personality rights refer to the right of a person to protect his/her personality under the right to privacy or property.
  • These rights are important to celebrities as their names, photographs or even voices can easily be misused in various advertisements by different companies to boost their sales.
  • Therefore, it is necessary for renowned personalities/celebrities to register their names to save their personality rights.
  • A large list of unique personal attributes contribute to the making of a celebrity.
  • All of these attributes need to be protected, such as name, nickname, stage name, picture, likeness, image and any identifiable personal property, such as a distinctive race car.

 

Personality rights and Publicity rights

  • Personality rights are different from publicity rights.
  • Personality rights consist of two types of rights —
    • Firstly, the right of publicity, or the right to keep one’s image and likeness from being commercially exploited without permission or contractual compensation, which is similar (but not identical) to the use of a trademark; and
    • Secondly, the right to privacy or the right to not have one’s personality represented publicly without permission.
  • However, under common law jurisdictions, publicity rights fall into the realm of the ‘tort of passing off’.
  • Passing off takes place when someone intentionally or unintentionally passes off their goods or services as those belonging to another party.
  • Often, this type of misrepresentation damages the goodwill of a person or business, resulting in financial or reputational damage.
  • Publicity rights are governed by statutes like the Trade marks Act 1999 and the Copyright Act 1957.
  • Court judgements —
      • Shivaji Rao Gaikwad (aka Rajinikanth) v. Varsha Production — Though there is no definition for the personality right under any statute in India, the Courts in India have recognised the personality right in various judgments.
      • ICC Development (International) Ltd., Vs. Arvee Enterprises — The right of publicity has evolved from the right of privacy and any effort to take away this right from the individuals would be violative of Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.