Guernsey: Innovation In Investment: Image Rights

Last Updated: 20 May 2013
Most Read Contributor in Guernsey, November 2017

Elaine Gray of Carey Olsen in Guernsey looks at how intellectual property has become an asset of critical economic importance.

Intellectual property (IP) as an asset class has seen exponential growth in recent years, from the early days to the online explosion of social media and even virtual worlds such as Farmville.

Indeed, IP has become an asset of critical economic importance. According to a report issued by the US Commerce Department in April 2012, IP-intensive industries in the US support (directly or indirectly) at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than USD5 trillion of US GDP, or 34.8% of GDP. Looking at it from another angle, in Japan it took 95 years to reach the millionth patent filing. It will take less than 15 years to reach the second millionth.

The value of IP products depends on the availability of robust protection for those products. However, rather surprisingly, the growth in IP products has not been matched by any significant development in IP law. The main IP rights have been subject to changes here and there but, since the introduction of regimes to protect inventions, designs, brands and creative output, there has been no real innovation in terms of new and distinct IP rights until now.

Guernsey's world-first in IP

That position changed in December 2012 when Guernsey led the way with the introduction of the world's first legislation creating image rights as a registered right (the IR Law).

Why would such a small jurisdiction take such an innovative step? The history goes back to a decision by Guernsey's government in 2004 to update Guernsey's IP regime. The intention was two-fold: to provide a supportive IP environment for local business by updating Guernsey's foundation IP laws and, thereafter, to take IP law to the next level by creating new IP rights which meet the needs of the commercial IP marketplace. Having updated its foundation IP laws on patents, designs, trade marks, copyright and so on, in 2012 Guernsey moved on to that next stage of its IP development.

Why image rights?

Guernsey identified several areas of IP activity where there was a significant commercial marketplace but an absence of legal provision with a resultant lack of certainty and clarity. The area of commercial activity where there was a clear and immediate need was image or personality rights. In today's increasingly celebrity centric world, images are all around us and can form a very significant part of the wealth source of a celebrity or brand.

For the famous in any field, their image, and the management of that image, can be of critical importance. It doesn't matter whether that fame stems from sporting abilities (such as David Beckham), scientific achievement (Albert Einstein), devotion to a cause (Linda McCartney), the persona of a brand (Virgin and Richard Branson) or a fleeting moment of fame from a talent show appearance. Whatever the source of fame, images of such individuals and companies can and do generate significant income streams from sponsorship deals, endorsement contracts, appearance work and the like. Despite this commercial activity, celebrities have struggled to obtain protection for their images.

There are many examples of images being used unfairly and exploited for commercial advantage by parties with no legitimate basis for so doing. However, although many jurisdictions offer some scope for protection, it is limited in extent as are the available remedies. For example, some protection may be available by reliance on registered trade marks, the common law remedy of passing-off, remedies under advertising and press regulations and arguments based on human rights considerations.

None of these remedies answer the need of the commercial marketplace in image rights for a bespoke legal right which clearly defined what is (and is not) an image right and how this can and cannot be used. It is into this gap which Guernsey has stepped. From 3 December 2012 it has been possible for personalities to register their image in Guernsey's Register of Image Rights which has been created by the Image Rights (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Ordinance, 2012. The starting point is the question of who can register under the law.

The persons entitled to register are natural persons, legal persons, joint personalities, groups and fictional characters. Examples of each of these are Roger Federer, Disney, The Rolling Stones and James Bond. The IR Law also allows registration by natural or legal persons who are alive and those who died or were dissolved in the past 100 years.

The law allows personalities to register 'images'. Don't be misled into thinking that this term limits the scope of the law to photographs and the like. In fact, an image includes any manifestation of a person's personality including their name and attributes or characteristics. The law identifies some of these key characteristics including voice, signature, likeness, appearance, silhouette, feature, face, expressions (verbal or facial), gestures and mannerisms.

It concludes with a 'sweep up' provision for any other distinctive personal attributes. The image can be recorded, and therefore registered, in many different forms including in photographs, illustrations, pictures, movies and electronic representations.

Although a personality can go along to Guernsey's Intellectual Property Office in person to register their image right, in practice this is unlikely to happen in the majority of cases. Instead, it is more likely that registration will be done through one of the registered image rights agents, all of whom have been trained by the IP Office in the new legislation.

The registration process itself is relatively straightforward requiring the completion of an application form, the filing of a representative image and of all images which the personality wishes to protect. The application must be accompanied by the appropriate fee which ranges from GBP1,000 for individuals to GBP5,000 for corporations. There are some key requirements which mean that applications should not be undertaken lightly and, in particular, should not be made without ensuring that the proposed registration will not infringe the IP rights of any third party such as the owner of the copyright in a photograph.

The application is then examined by the Registrar of IP in Guernsey and, if it passes that initial examination, it will be published in the online register of applications which gives an opportunity for interested parties to oppose or make observations on the application. Readers familiar with trade mark processes will recognize many similarities in this part of the process. Assuming there is no opposition, the application will be granted and the personality will be a registered personality and the proud owner of a registered image right(s).

It is in this respect that the benefits of registration under the law become extremely clear. Pursuant to the law, a registered image right is a right of property and, as such, can be treated as, and traded, in the same way as any other item of property. This status of a formal, legal property right is a significant step forward as it gives a right which prevails against third parties (in direct contrast to the existing and limited personal rights which may arise in relation to abuse of an image). It also means that the registered right can be assigned, disposed of by will or otherwise disposed of just as any other item of property. In real terms, this makes it easier to manage and exploit image rights, either through bespoke vehicles or indeed existing structures such as trusts, foundations or cell companies.

The law also facilitates certain key transactions such as assignments and licensing. Once registered the personality's registration lasts for ten years although this can be renewed indefinitely. For images, the duration is three years but again these are capable of being renewed indefinitely. This scope for indefinite protection is in direct contrast to the limited shelf-life of, for example, copyright in photographs. In this regard, an image rights registration offers the scope to extend the duration of rights in images which may fall out of copyright. This, in turn, enables effective succession planning of image rights for the first time as personalities are enabled to transact with their registered rights in a way previously not possible.

Another unique advantage of a registered image right is the scope it allows personalities to assert their moral rights to be identified as the personality in images and to object to derogatory treatment of their image. This offers a significant step forward in the recognition of personalities' rights and also plays into the question of damages for breach. The law also provides significantly greater comfort in the area of infringement given that the distinct lack of clarity and high degree of uncertainty which prevailed prior to the law's introduction. There are now clear remedies for infringement. These include actions for damages, orders for delivery up or disposal of goods which contain infringing images, injunctions and accounts of profits.

If infringement is proved the court can award damages, which reflect the actual prejudice suffered by the personality, and will take into account the negative economic consequences of the infringement on the personality as well as elements other than economic factors including the moral prejudice caused to the personality. The court can also award additional damages to reflect the flagrancy of a breach and any benefit which the wrongdoer has accrued by reason of the infringement. These provisions alone offer a fundamental step forward for infringement of moral rights.

It is important to note that the law only strikes at commercial exploitation of registered image rights and not, for example, private use of images. Similarly the law gives clear expression to 'fair dealing' exceptions which apply in relation to copyright matters, such as the freedom to report news, engage in parody or satire, research, education and so on.

Finally, it is worth noting that the majority of image infringements occur, or are evidenced, online which may give rise to a right of action before the Guernsey courts. In that context, reciprocal arrangements exist between Guernsey and other countries both under statute and common law so as to facilitate effective enforcement of remedies against wrongdoers. The Guernsey registered image right has been designed to offer a high value, quality product for personalities keen to ensure maximum protection for their rights. Although it has only been open for a matter of weeks, the Register already has a good number of registrations ranging from international business women, celebrity hairdressers, politicians and musicians to international DJs.

Personalities wishing to register their image rights may choose to set up an appropriate structure to hold and manage the wealth generated from the asset. Equally, the right could simply be placed into an existing structure.

The fact that Guernsey is the only jurisdiction in the world to offer registered image rights provides the jurisdiction with a unique advantage when it comes to holding and managing image right assets. It also offers a tax-neutral environment supported by excellent service providers.

A Guernsey registered image right offers a unique and valuable opportunity for personalities seeking to obtain maximum protection for their image. As such, Guernsey has created an innovative IP right which should be of interest to any investment advisor in this area. Guernsey is proud, and rightly so, of having achieved this landmark step in the IP world. However, Guernsey isn't stopping here and the future holds the scope for further innovative IP rights to be introduced in relation to green innovation and IP rights in 'the information society'.

Originally published in Offshore Investment, April 2013

For more information about Guernsey's finance industry please visit

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions