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Personality Rights and their Protection

  • Context (IE): Hollywood actor Scarlett Johansson has accused OpenAI of using her voice despite her earlier declining licensing requests.
  • OpenAI‘s latest AI model, GPT-4o, features Voice Mode. This mode allows users to have voice conversations with the AI chatbot and choose from five kinds of voices.
    • Johansson said one of these voices, named ‘Sky’, was allegedly copying her voice.

What are Personality Rights?

  • Personality rights refer to a person’s right to protect their personality, which is a part of the right to privacy or property.
  • Personality rights or publicity rights are a subset of “celebrity rights” claimed by celebrities.
  • The name, nickname, stage name, voice, signature, images, or any other feature easily identified by the public as markers of a celebrity’s personality lie at the heart of personality rights.
    • These could include poses, mannerisms, or any other distinct aspect of their public persona.
  • These rights are essential 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.
  • Celebrities often trademark aspects of their personalities for commercial use, ensuring only they can profit from their unique features.
    • Footballer Gareth Bale has trademarked the heart sign he makes with his hands while celebrating a goal.

Types of Personality Rights

  • Personality rights are divided into two categories:
    1. The right of publicity, or the right to keep one’s image and likeness from being commercially exploited without permission. It is similar (but not identical) to the use of a trademark.
    2. The right to privacy or the right to not have one’s personality represented publicly without permission.

Personality Rights in India

  • In India, personality rights are protected by law through principles related to privacy and property rights, despite not being explicitly mentioned in statutes.
  • Article 21 of the IC is the closest statute to protect personality rights under the rights to privacy and publicity.
  • Copyright Act of 1957: Concepts in IPR cases, such as ‘passing off’ and ‘deception’, are usually applied in such cases.
    • According to the Act, moral rights are only granted to authors and performers, including actors, singers, musicians, and dancers.
    • It mandates that Authors or Performers have the right to be given credit or claim authorship of their work and also have the right to restrain others from causing damage to their work.
    • Injunctions deter unauthorized commercial use of a celebrity’s identity by prohibiting specific activities, thus protecting their financial interests.

What is an injunction?

  • An injunction is a legal remedy issued by a court that orders a person or entity to either perform a specific action or refrain from doing a particular act.
  • It serves as a legal deterrent against the unauthorised commercial exploitation of a celebrity’s identity, helping to protect their financial interests.
  • The Indian Trademarks Act of 1999: It also protects personal rights under Section 14, which restricts the use of individual names and representations.

Court judgements

  • Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India): The personality rights were elevated to the position of constitutional rights.
    • An individual may be permitted to prevent others from using their image, name and other aspects of their personal life and identity for commercial purposes without their consent.
  • Arun Jaitley vs Network Solutions Private Limited and Ors Case (2011): The Delhi HC held that an individual’s popularity or fame would be no different on the internet than in reality.
    • The court had also stated that the name also falls in the category wherein, besides it being a personal name, it has also attained distinctive indicia of its own.
  • Shivaji Rao Gaikwad (aka Rajinikanth) v. Varsha Production: Though there is no definition for personality rights under any statute in India, there is still the recognition of personality rights.
  • ICC Development (International) Ltd. Vs. Arvee Enterprises: The right to publicity, derived from the right to privacy, is protected under Articles 19 and 21 of the IC.

Personal rights vs consumer rights

  • Celebrities are protected from commercial misuse of their names and personalities, but consumers can be misled by false advertisements or endorsements involving them.
  • To address this, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs issued guidelines in 2022, imposing penalties on endorsers of misleading advertisements.
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