Italy: The Use Of A Person´s Image.

Last Updated: 16 April 2009
Article by Felix Hofer

1. The general principle is that the use of a person's image without his/her consent is basically prohibited (this even more if such use is performed for marketing or – in general - commercial purposes). In Italy the right on a person's image is governed both by the Civil Code and the Intellectual Property Act (Law no. 633 dated April 22nd, 1941, amended and integrated in the following).

(i) According to Section 10 of the Italian Civil Code the image of a person, or of his/her parent, spouse, or child can be exhibited or published only if such use is explicitly permitted by law and provided that the use does not cause prejudice to the dignity or reputation of the person represented.

Should abuse occur (save for the cases in which the use performed results in a criminal offense), a local (civil) Court can order termination of the abuse and award damages.

(ii) The local Intellectual Property Act contains additional provisions on the use of a person's image.

(ii.a.) A person's image MAY NOT be exhibited, reproduced or put on sale without his/her consent (so Section 96 of Law n° 633 dated April 22nd, 1941).

(ii.b.) Exceptions to this basic provision (i. e. use without consent) are allowed if the reproduction of a person's image is justified by his/her notoriety (see Section 97) and by a public interest (e. g. for purposes of information to the general public).

(ii.c.) Finally, a person's image may not be exhibited or put on sale if such use causes prejudice to the represented person's honour, dignity or reputation (Section 97 of the Intellectual Property Act).

2. In short, there is a general ban on using another person's image without having obtained proper consent, while the law indicates specifically the exceptions to the principle, which are set in the view of a – superior – general interest. Such exceptions do not cover cases in which the use of the image is performed for commercial purposes or results detrimental to a person's dignity or reputation.

The principle is widely confirmed by case-law of local courts, according to which:

- "Consent for using (reproducing) a famous person's image is not necessary when a 'public interest' of delivering information to the general public (...) may be found; such interest doesn't occur when the use is performed for marketing purposes" (First Instance Court: Tribunale Roma, decision of 23.07.2003; identical conclusions may be found in the following decisions: Tribunale Tortona, 24.11.2003, Tribunale Modena, 25.11.2002, Tribunale Milano, 23.12.1999; recently Last Instance Court – Corte di Cassazione – Third Civil Chamber, decision no. 8838 of April 13th, 2007).

- It's not necessary to seek for explicit – written – permission, being sufficient that consent results by implication or through the right holder's unambiguous behaviour (so the Last Instance Court – Corte di Cassazione – First Civil Chamber, decision no. 11491 of May 16th, 2006).

- If consent was obtained, then the terms, conditions, purposes and context for permitted use are to be strictly respected (so the Last Instance Court – Corte di Cassazione – First Civil Chamber, decision no. 3014 of February 17th, 2004; in identical terms: decision no. 21995 September 1st, 2008).

Such principles appear to be of particular relevance especially with respect to the use of a person's image in the context of the so-called 'New Media', as local Courts have set that:

- "Consent for using an image on the Internet is to be intended as strictly limited to (and conditional on) time period, location and purposes agreed on and may be revoked" (First Instance Civil Court – Tribunale – in Bari, First Chamber, decision June 13th, 2006),

- Should not authorized use of a person's image on the Internet occur, there will be given joint liability of both, "the author of the illegal use for promotional purposes as well as the owner of the website used for such illicit diffusion" (First Instance Court – Tribunale – in Rome, decision September 15th, 2007).

3. The idea behind the local courts' position is that the law does both, protecting an individual's sphere of private intimacy as well as assigning economic value to a person's name and image (especially if the person is famous and for that is used to derive revenues from popularity). Therefore "unauthorized use of a person's image (i. e. use without his/her consent) for marketing purposes results in prejudice and damaging effects because the represented person is deprived (at least) of the remuneration obtainable by giving consent to the image's use" (Court of Appeals – Corte di Appello - Torino, decision 03.08.2002: also: First Instance Court: Tribunale Modena, 25.11.2002 and Tribunale Milano, 22.03.1999).

A First Instance Court in Turin has recently held that the purchase of a picture from a photo library/agency does not automatically imply that consent for further diffusion and for additional commercial purposes was also transferred (First Instance Court – Tribunale - in Torino, order July 9th, 2008); consent for such further and additional uses has therefore to be sought - and substantiated - on request.

It's also to be taken into proper account that 'parody' does not necessarily grant a safe escape for avoiding achievement of permission for using a person's image.

A Court of Appeals in Rome has stated (Corte di Appello di Roma, First Chamber, decision April 11th, 2005) that 'funny representations' even if associated with stereotypes of widely diffused common – but questionable – habits, can result in an offence to person's dignity or reputation and may therefore fall afoul of the 'information to the general public' exemption.

4. A person offended by the improper use of his/her image has a course of action before a local civil court. According to a First Instance Court in Brescia (First Chamber, decision October 2nd, 2003) the local legal system grants 'double protection', by allowing both, to seek for a cease and desist injunction as well as to ask for damage compensation.

When a claim is filed, it's up to the defendant to prove that the use occurred with proper consent.

If improper use refers to a famous person, the claimant has to provide evidence of the fact that the use was not performed within the context of information to the general public, but exclusively or mainly for marketing purposes.

On the other hand it's to be borne in mind that according to the Italian legal system the burden of proof with respect to the amount of the alleged damages lies with the claimant (no punitive damages can be achieved). Such burden of proof (on the amount of the damages claimed) will usually refer to licensing fees. Should the claimant not derive revenues from commercial use of his image, damage substantiation may easily result in a critical issue; in such cases the claimant will have to ask for 'just compensation' and have to rely on the Court's (discretionary) evaluation, which generally doesn't result in awarding of huge amounts (on these criteria see recently Last Instance Court – Corte di Cassazione – Third Civil Chamber, decision no. 12433 of May 16th, 2008).

5. In certain cases a claim for damage compensation may actually not be the most delicate aspect of the problem: what has to be properly assessed is the risk of being hit by a temporary injunction (obtainable on very short notice), halting the unauthorized use of the claimant's image. In fact, a withdrawal of a promotional campaign would clearly result in significant, indirectly negative effects for the defendant.

Finally there is another side aspect, which requires proper attention. Unauthorized use of a person's image may easily result in an additional violation of the local provisions governing the processing of personal data. Non-compliance with these provisions may imply – together with other unpleasant effects as fines and even criminal charges – an obligation to damage compensation for breach of a person's privacy (so Last Instance Court – Corte di Cassazione – Third Chamber, decision no. 12433 of May 16th, 2008).

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.

Felix Hofer
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
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
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

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