Date: 18th January, 2021
by Sakshi Verma, UILS, Panjab University
Personality rights refer to rights associated with the personality of an individual. This is intricately involved with the right to privacy and property of a person. A person’s persona includes his/her name, photograph, signature, voice or any other mark of identity. These rights are mostly important to celebrities as their names, photographs or even voices can easily be misused in various advertisements by different companies to boost their sales.
There is no codified law in India for Personality Rights and the advancement of this law is in the underdeveloped stage and is to a great extent governed by judgements of Courts.
The most significant statutory rule regarding Personality Rights is a part of the fundamental right of Right to Life provided under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Under Intellectual Property Law, Personality Rights are considered as property of well-known public figures which cannot be misused or misappropriated by any-one.
Certain provisions are provided under Intellectual Property Rights such as the Copyright Act 1957, where moral rights are ascribed only to authors and performers which comprises actors, performers, dancers, singers, composers etc. As per the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957, the Authors or the Performers have the right to be given credit or claim authorship of their work and have a negative right restraining others from causing any kind of damage to their work which consequently disrupts their reputation.
Certain provisions are provided under Section 14 of the Indian Trademarks Act, 1999, which make use of personal names non-permissible. Personality Rights are also protected under the common law remedy of passing off and that of the Law of Torts protecting against the tort of disparagement, libel or slander.
JUDICIAL RECOGNITION OF PUBLICITY RIGHTS
The common law right of publicity recognises the commercial value of a photograph or representation of a prominent person and protects his proprietary interest in the profitability of his public reputation or persona.
The courts in India, by applying right of publicity in various instances, have been able to decide upon cases wherein the Personality Rights of public figures had been affected. Since the words such as “Celebrity”, “famous Personality” or “publicity rights” have not been defined under any statute, the question of who is a celebrity and if the said person in question is entitled to get his/her publicity rights enforced is subjective.
Personality Rights have a wide scope and have been interpreted by courts in different scenarios to enforce the rights of celebrities. In Shivaji Rao Gaikwad vs. Varsha Productions, the Madras High Court while deciding the case filed by the prominent Indian Actor Mr. Rajinikanth held that despite that there is no definition of “Personality Right” under any Statute in India, courts in India have given the same in various judicial pronouncements.
FALSE ENDORSEMENT BY CELEBRITIES
Well-known figures suffer damage to their personality rights often but also it is seen that the general public suffers due to misleading and false advertisements.
As Indian courts have considered recognition of Personality Rights, the Government has also amended the Consumer Protection Act of 2019 to protect the consumers by keeping a check on misleading advertisements and endorsements of consumer products by imposing penalty on the endorser as well. Recently, a consumer court in Kerala has held a film actor Anoop Menon, liable for making false claims endorsing a hair product.