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Celebrity Rights: Is it Imperative in India?

“The Celebrity is a person who is known for his well- knownness[1]

- Daniel Boorstein

The rights of celebrities were steadily manhandled from numerous points of view. The right to economically use their identity has been continually encroached. Celebrities private information routinely spilled out in public and their privacy encroached upon. In the past there was a scenario where celebrities were unable to make choices regarding their privacy and personality right, but the scenario is very different now. Now all these rights have become very imperative on the grounds that currently individuals are increasingly mindful, astute and responsible about their rights. Celebrities are keeping their personal information as private as possible in order to avoid any embarrassment so for that the constitution of India gives every person the right to privacy and recognize it as a fundamental right not just in constitution it likewise goes under the realm of Intellectual property rights (IPR).

Define Celebrity?

While expounding on celebrity rights. It is very imperative to know who is a celebrity. Celebrities have the sole right to exploit the value of being a celebrity.[2]

The word celebrity comes from Latin word ‘Celebritatem’ which means ‘the condition of being famous’.[3] Public Perception is very imperative to decide whether an individual is a celebrity or not. In copyright right act 1957 they haven’t defined celebrity word but they have defined performers under section 2(qq)[4] we can utilize that reference. A performer is not always a celebrity, a celebrity may not be a performer by any means. A performer incorporates ‘an actor, singer, dancer, juggler, snake charmer, acrobat and a person who is delivering a lecture or any other person who makes a performance’.

Celebrity Rights

The rights enjoyed by the celebrity are a heap of rights including Publicity rights, rental, lending, reproduction, Privacy rights, Personality rights and so on. Comprehensively every one of these rights come under three significant rights in particular Personality, Privacy and Publicity Rights.

Privacy Rights

The percept of privacy set forth by Warren and Brandeis has assumed a noteworthy job in molding celebrity rights. They have stated that the key thought of personal freedom extends to every person’s right ‘to be let alone’.[5] Privacy Law is not written in a way that protects celebrities because they are often specific to normal people. The Court recognizes that generally a right to be alone for all people and since celebrities are public figures then only information that benefits the general public should be exposed. First of all we should draw a line. There is a difference between scandalous journalism and genuine news coverage. The kind of journalism some paparazzi are doing is using celebrities for commercial purposes . Opportunity of Press is an imperative element because it is an industry which has a great role in making people famous. Today we are inundated with so much information about celebrities life for instance like who celebrity is dating whom. Now people are more into actors' personal lives but now the celebrities have learned how to play with the paparazzi but still they are worried about what appears in newspapers the next day because the fact that control is in the hands of the media. Paparazzi works with forms of media such as entertainment channels and tabloids so as to bring money. They are aware that the public is eager to know every detail of celebrities' life and paparazzi will go to extreme measures to get the picture they want. More celebrities are bringing cases in regards to intrusion of privacy to court. The court is beginning to perceive the requirement for assurance to an ever increasing extent. It is the market in the economy that permits bogus information to be presented to the public and they are responsible for the media portraying celebrities in a certain light. The Supreme Court of India ruled against the milestone judgment of Rajagopal v. State of Tamil Nadu (1994), passed by the Madras High Court I extract the court’s definition of privacy below: the Rajagopal judgment states “….it must be held that the complainant has the right to publish, what they claim to be the life story/biopic insofar as it appears from the public records, even without his consent or authorization but if they publish anything beyond that is in the public domain they are invading his right to privacy and will be liable for the damages and the consequences by law"[6]. In the Veerapan case[7] The Madras High Court said if the person broadcasts anything which is not in public domain then that person is infringing the right to privacy of that person.

Publicity Rights

This right gives creators the power to control any type of profit from the utilization of their name or anything related to a set individual. Publicity is the right which is not just for celebrities but for every individual. Every individual should have control over the commercialization of his persona. Celebrities get to use the right to block other people from using their names, their likenesses, their voices. It’s a legal right that allows them to stop someone from profiting off their celebrity. People often use celebrity for personal identity development. For instance it is a lot easier to sell a t-shirt if it has a picture of Virat Kohli or Shah rukh Khan on it. However the unauthorized use of the image of Virat Kohli or Shah rukh Khan for these purposes would infringe their Right to publicity. This right only extends to commercial exploitation. They invest a great deal of hardwork and talent in acquiring their status and are entitled to reap the benefit of their effort. The unauthorized use of a celebrity name can be a species of passing off, of unfair competition, of misrepresentation and can cause damage to her or his reputation. It also can amount to an infringement of right to privacy or breach of confidence.[8] The illegal advantage of the traits of celebrity can negatively affect both their economic and non-economic interest. The economic interest can still be compensated in money terms but the non-economic interest such as the breach of privacy, damage to reputation, mental agony and distress cannot be compensated in money terms. This right emanates not only from common law jurisprudence, yet in addition discovers assurance under the Copyright Act 1957 as adjustment rights, and under the Trade Marks Act 1999 for protection of name or likeness of individuals in the course of trade and commerce.[9]The Court upon the renowned case of ICC Development (International) Ltd., Vs. Arvee Enterprises[10] and another in which it was held that:

"The right of publicity has advanced from the right of privacy and can inhere just in an individual or in any indicia of a person's character like his name, character attribute, signature, voice, and so forth., An individual may procure the right of publicity by virtue of his association with an event, sport, movie, and so forth. In any case, that right does not inhere in the occasion being referred to, that made the individual famous, nor in the corporation that has brought about the organization of the event. Any push to take away the right of publicity from the people, to the organiser (non-human entity) of the event would be infringement of Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. No persona can be cornered. The right of Publicity vests in an individual and he alone is qualified to benefit from it."

This right is significant in light of the fact that it is assignable and licensable to the players in the media world for business gains and advantages. The right to publicity is inheritable along these lines; the descendants of the celebrity could likewise gain from the popularity which the celebrity has made during his lifetime. In this way we see that right to publicity turns into an indispensable and integral part and parcel of celebrity rights.[11]

Personality Rights

Personality rights as the name suggests, refers to the right related to the personality of an individual. This is intensely involved with the right to privacy and property of a person. This right imperative for celebrities as their names, voices and pictures can be simply misused in several advertisements. Each of the personalities contributing in a different-different way in a society depend on the talent they have. An individual's offering to society is the extension of his personality. An individual’s personality has a huge amount of moral, dignitary and emotional values attached with it, which might be very close to the heart of a celebrity. but still, the media constantly intervenes and infringes the personality rights of the celebrities by linking them with several commodities and projects that fall against the image which has been created in the society and which might go against the fame of the celebrity. For example, the personality or the moral rights of a religious guru who has always been against the use of cigarettes and has always been preaching the same to the society will be earnestly defiled if his photograph is put on the cigarette packets to encourage the same among his believers.


[1] [2] White v Samsung Elec Am Inc, 971 F.2d 1395, 1397 (9th Cir 1992), cert denied, 113 S. Ct. 2443 (1993). [3] Morgan Piers, The power of celebrity, 122473.html (23 January 2010). [4] [5] Louis Brandeis D & Warren Samuel D, The right to privacy, Harvard Law Review, 4(5)(1890), /Privacy_brand_warr2.html (11 January 2010) [6] R RajaGopal v State of Tamil Nadu 1995 AIR 264 [7] [8] option=com_content&itemid=1&do_pdf=1&id=15478 [9] [10] ICC Development (International) Ltd., Vs. Arvee Enterprises and another 2003 (26) PTC 24 [11] is not often dealt with, it can be considered for publication. Submitted by,

Ankita Chaturvedi,

SVKM'S Pravin Gandhi College of Law.


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