Personality Rights


  • The Delhi High Court has protected the personality and publicity rights of a Bollywood actor.
  • The court has restrained various entities – e-commerce stores, AI chatbots, social media accounts etc – from misusing the actor’s name, image, voice, and likeness without his consent.

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 could include a pose, a mannerism or any aspect of their personality.
  • 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.
  • Many celebrities even register some aspects as a trademarks to use them commercially.
  • For example, Usain Bolt’s “bolting” or lightning pose is a registered trademark.

Reasons for providing these Rights

  • The idea is that only the owner of these distinct features has the right to derive any commercial benefit from it.
  • Exclusivity is a big factor in attracting commercial dividends for celebrities.
  • Personality rights are not expressly mentioned in Laws in India but fall under the right to privacy and property rights.

Are Personality Rights 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;
  • Secondly, the Right to Privacy or the right not to have one’s personality represented publicly without permission.
  • Publicity rights fall into the realm of the ‘tort of passing off ’ when someone intentionally or unintentionally passes off their goods or services to another party. 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.

Legality of Personality Rights

  • Celebrities can move the Court and seek an injunction when an unauthorised third party uses their personality rights for commercial purposes.
  • Personality rights or their protection are not expressly mentioned in a statute in India but are traced to fall under the right to privacy and property rights.
  • Many concepts in intellectual property rights used in the protection of trademarks such as passing off, and deception can be applied while deciding whether a celebrity deserves to be protected through an injunction.
  • An ex-parte injunction is when relief is granted to a party without hearing the other side.
  • An omnibus injunction refers to an injunction granted against any unauthorised use- even those that are not mentioned in the plea.

Criteria for Granting Injunction

In the Titan case, the HC in its order listed out the “basic elements comprising the liability for infringement of the
right of publicity.”

  • Validity of the Right: The plaintiff owns an enforceable right in the identity or persona of a human being.
  • Easy to Identify in the alleged misuse: The defendant’s unauthorized use must make the celebrity identifiable easily.
  • Celebrity is identifiable: The unaided identification should be enough if the celebrity is well-known. Otherwise, the plaintiff will have to bring evidence which adds up at a geometric rate to associate with the plaintiff.

Previous Cases on Personality Rights

  • Anil Kapoor had moved the Delhi High Court in a civil suit seeking protection of his personality- his name, photographs, manner of speaking, gestures etc.
  • He also claimed protection of his copyright in the dialogue the image and other associated works.
  • In 2022, the Delhi High Court dealt with a similar case involving Amitabh Bachchan.
  • From using variations of his name such as “Big B” to including his “unique style of addressing the computer the HC injuncted the use of his personality rights.
  • In 2015, the Madras High Court, in a similar case involving actor Rajnikanth observed that “personality right vests on those persons, who have attained the status of celebrity”.