Explained | How do personality rights protect celebrities?

Source: The post is based on the articleExplained | How do personality rights protect celebrities?published in The Hindu on 2nd December 2022.

What is the News?

The Delhi High Court has 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.

Are personality rights different from publicity rights?

Personality rights are different from publicity rights.

Personality rights consist of two types of rights: 1) 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 2) Right to privacy or the right to not have one’s personality represented publicly without permission. 

On the other hand, 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.

Does the use of names on the internet affect personality rights?

​​The Delhi High Court in 2011 made an observation in the case of Arun Jaitley vs Network Solutions Private Limited and Ors. in which Mr Jaitley filed a suit seeking a permanent injunction against the defendants from misuse and immediate transfer of the domain name. 

The Court stated that the popularity or fame of an individual will be no different on the internet than in reality. The Court decided in the favour of Mr Arun Jaitley stating that the name also falls in the category wherein it besides being a personal name has attained distinctive indicia of its own.

What about consumer rights?

While celebrities are protected from commercial misuse of their name and personality, there have also been instances where consumers are misled owing to false advertisements or endorsements by such personalities. 

Due to such cases, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs has made a notification in 2022 to keep a check on misleading adverts and endorsements of consumer products by imposing a penalty on the endorser.

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