There are few nations for whom the cult of personality matters
more than Russia.
A nation, shaped profoundly by powerful leaders across the ages,
instinctively recognizes the cultural and political importance of
strong images. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the
modern icons of Russia are worth millions of rubles.
Copyright has been the traditional tool to protect the value
inherent within an image – but the digital age has brought
new challenges in the way that images are used.
One jurisdiction has met this challenge – Guernsey. It has
an established track record of introducing innovative, successful
legislation. The Image Rights Ordinance (IRO) continues by being at
the forefront of modern intellectual property practice. The IRO
allows people to take control of not just their image, but their
whole personality in a way not possible anywhere else in the world.
In simple terms, you can own yourself. You control who uses any
aspect of your personality for commercial benefit. It is a bit like
trademarking your personality.
Many celebrities already have contracts in place regarding the
use of their image rights. The irony is that image rights as such
do not exist in English law, and only exist in a limited way under
Russian law. In contrast, by registering in Guernsey, robust
property rights are created and recorded on a public register,
which help underpin existing contractual arrangements. In the
context of this law 'image' is not limited to a specific
photograph, but includes any unique characteristic of the
registered personality. That would include things such as voice,
sounds, phrases, mannerisms and so forth. If it's readily
identified with the personality; it's probably registrable.
Intriguingly, the concept of personality itself is extended to
include natural persons (Maria Alexandrova, Roman Abramovich),
legal entities (Kaspersky Labs), joint personalities (t.A.T.u.),
group personalities (Bolshoi Ballet, Chelsea FC), fictional
characters (Prince Myshkin) and deceased personalities (Mikhail
Kalishnakov). Anyone can register; you don't have to be famous
to do so.
Companies and clubs can add another level of brand protection
not previously possible. Families can continue to benefit from the
success of loved ones, long since departed, because the property
rights created in this manner can be bequeathed from one generation
to the next.
Creating a whole new category of intellectual property is a bold
move, but one which Guernsey is confident will be justified. The
reception to this ground-breaking legislation internationally has
been overwhelmingly positive, with most practitioners acknowledging
that the law seems well-crafted and designed for the digital age,
but tempering their enthusiasm with the inevitable 'wait and
Many acknowledge that the sensible approach is to integrate
registration in Guernsey as part of an overall intellectual
property strategy, on the basis that it represents one more weapon
in the arsenal of tools available to protect one's personality
As yet, despite a growing number of registrations, the Guernsey
law has yet to be tested in the international arena. It is fully
compliant with the various international conventions covering such
matters and the expectations of these rights being upheld in other
compliant jurisdictions is high. Moreover, Guernsey has reciprocal
agreements in place with a number of jurisdictions for the
automatic enforcement of money judgement orders, which are likely
to form part of any action brought under the infringement of
registered image rights.
Ultimately the law is predicated on issues of economic benefit.
It is not a privacy law - but conceivably might be of use in
certain circumstances. Neither is it driven by tax considerations -
but again, registering one's image rights in the only
jurisdiction available might well mean that it becomes part of an
overall corporate planning process.
Perhaps the question to be asked is what price do you put on
your own personality? In a digital age personality matters and the
Guernsey register provides the best possible protection currently
An original Russian version of this article was
published inKommersant, November 2014.
As reported in the market updates section of this newsletter, the UAE Ministry of Economy recently reviewed the fees charged by its various departments, including the Trade Mark, Patent and Copyright Office.
As the technology industry is highly competitive and grows rapidly, organizations focus on reducing costs in a bid to strive to retain and/or gain the competitive advantage.
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