Shielding the Spotlight: Exploring Celebrity Rights and Personality Rights

Celebrity Rights or Personality Rights can be categorized into publicity rights and Right to Privacy. The Right to protect one’s reputation from being exploited commercially without permission is a publicity right and comes under the tort of passing off. The Right to privacy is the Right to protect the representation of one’s personality without one’s permission in public. Privacy was considered as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution in the case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, AIR 2017 SC 4161. Privacy is an extension of the Right to liberty, also called the “right to be left alone” Infringement of the Right to privacy arises when someone uses someone else’s identity without their permission.

Laws in India regarding Personality Rights

There is no specific statute in India that protects personality or celebrity rights. Particular provisions under specific laws, such as the Right to life under Article 21 and Intellectual Property Rights Laws, such as the Copyright Act 1957 and Section 14 of the Trade Mark Act 1999, protect personality or celebrity rights. These rights are also protected by the remedy of passing off and the law of Torts from disparagement and misuse. Misrepresentation. Indian Copyright Act of 1957 protects all original, literary, dramatic, musical, and creative works, cinematograph films, and sound recordings. Copyright Act provides for moral rights under Section 57 of the Copyright Act, which protects the Authors or the Performers from others from causing damage to their work in respect of any distortion, mutilation, modification, or other act concerning the said work if such an act would be prejudicial to his honor or reputation and also provides for authorship of their work.

Judgments by Indian courts on the protection of Personality Rights

The word ‘personality’ has no particular definition in any statute. It has been interpreted through various judgments passed by different courts in India. Titan Industries Ltd. vs. Ramkumar Jewellers CS(OS) No.2662/2011, the Delhi High Court in 2012 defined a celebrity as “a famous or a well-known person and is merely a person who “many” people talk about or know about.” In this case, photographs of actors Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and Ms. Jaya Bachchan was captured for endorsement of Plaintiff’s jewelry product and was used unauthorizedly by Defendant for his jewelry product. The Court, while allowing a permanent injunction against the Defendant, observed that the identity of a famous personality or celebrity could be used in advertisements for commercial purposes, but only with the respective personality’s opinion and approval regarding the time, place, and nature of usage. Only individuals have personality rights and not corporate bodies. In the case of ICC Development (International) Ltd. vs. Arvee Enterprises and Ors, 2003 (26) PTC 245 Del, the Delhi High Court he was observed that “Any effort to take away the Right of publicity from the individuals, to the organizer {non-human entity} of the event would be vocative of Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. No persona can be monopolized. The Right of Publicity vests in an individual, and he alone is entitled to profit from it.” There are various judgments wherein the personality rights of celebrities have been granted protection. In the recent and important case of Amitabh Bachchan v. Rajat Nagi & Ors., CS (COMM) 819 of 2022, A lawsuit was brought against the Defendants Rajat Nagi & Ors., as well as the general public by actor Amitabh Bachchan for allegedly misappropriating his name, appearance, voice, and personality traits. The Delhi High Court passed an ex parte ad interim injunction restraining the world from using one of the most well-known actor Amitabh Bachchan’s name, photo, voice, or any of his attributes without his permission. In Arun Jaitley v. Network Solutions Private Limited and Ors. CS(OS) 1745/2009, the well-known erstwhile politician Mr. Arun Jaitley had filed a suit asking a permanent injunction against the defendants from misusing and also for immediate transfer of the domain name because the name is the personal name of the Plaintiff is associated only with him and therefore carries enormous goodwill and reputation. In a recent Delhi High Court judgment, Hon’ble Court sought clarity on the issue of heritability of personality rights in Krishna Kishore Singh v. Sarla A Saraogi & Ors. CS (COMM) 187/ 2021, interlocutory injunction was moved by the late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s father against the producers and director of the film. He alleged that the movie was made without taking the permission of legal representatives of Sushant Singh Rajput. Justice C Hari Shankar dismissed the application observing that the publicity and privacy rights are not heritable and died with the death of the late actor, Justice C Hari Shankar observed “that even assuming that the film infracts the publicity rights of Sushant Singh Rajput or defames him, the “infracted right is personal” to the late actor. The rights ventilated in the plaint – i.e., the Right to privacy, the Right to publicity, and the personality rights vested in Sushant Singh Rajput, are not heritable.” Through various judgments passed by Indian Courts, we can conclude that the Right of publicity in a jurisprudential sense can be located with the individual’s right and freedom to permit or not permit the commercial exploitation of specific attributes of his personality. An individual who claims false endorsement must prove that using the identity misled consumers into believing that the concerned personality endorsed the product. The individual should verify that the false acceptance amounts to a precise dilution of the uniqueness of such personality and results in a mistaken belief that, Plaintiff has either licensed or the Defendants have some connection with them to use its exclusive Right to market images of the artist. In India, there is no particular statute for the protection of personality rights; therefore, many questions need to be answered regarding personality rights; one such question is, should personality rights be considered an extension of the Right to privacy? In the United States of America, just using the name or image of a celebrity for brand advertisement or promotion will not always attract any liability; however, if such advertising is falsely misleading the public that the celebrity is endorsing the concerned brand, it will be held liable. Thus, the US right to privacy prevents unfair appropriation of an individual’s celebrity for commercial gains and does not protect the Right to privacy per se.


The judiciary has repeatedly recognized the existence of various aspects of celebrity rights, now is the time for the legislature to acknowledge statutorily commercial aspects of celebrity rights to fill the lacunae in law to keep pace with the rapid commercialization of celebrity rights. There is no Intellectual Property Law that fully safeguards personality rights. The laws governing trademarks, passing off, and copyright are only partially consistent with protecting personality rights. With the widespread popularity of celebrities or public figures and the advent of privacy awareness among all, it is essential that the laws keep up with the changing times. The rights of stars are being exploited without their permission commercially, and false representation of attributes of famous personalities leads to breach of privacy as well; it is high time for appropriate legislation regarding the safeguarding of personality rights in India; same can also be seen from the recent case of well-known actor Amitabh Bachchan which ignites the need for personality rights in India.
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