Protecting Personality Rights In India

Khurana and Khurana


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"No persona can be monopolized. The right of Publicity vests in an individual, and he alone is entitled to profit from it.
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"No persona can be monopolized. The right of Publicity vests in an individual, and he alone is entitled to profit from it."1 This was held by the Delhi High Court while discussing the right to publicity, and this highlights the essence of protecting the persona of famous personalities or, rather, to say "celebrities" to protect that from being misused by others for any monetary gain or any unauthorized usage by third parties. In this article, we will be exploring the concept of personality rights, the availability of protection of such rights in the Indian legal framework, a few infamous cases of personality rights protection in the Indian context, and then the effect of a rise in media conundrum in the context of the protection of personality rights and a need for a practical framework to counter the growing menace of unstructured laws on personality rights.


In a civil suit2, the Delhi High Court recently restrained several defendants from infringing Jackie Shroff's personality/ publicity rights.3 Recently, various celebrities, from Amitabh Bachchan to Anil Kapoor, have filed multiple similar suits for the protection of unauthorized misuse of their personality by various third parties. This raises the most pertinent question of what personality rights are and how the "celebrities" are being protected by the judiciary.

The Delhi High Court in Titan Industries Ltd. v. M/s. Ramkumar Jewellers4 defines a celebrity5 as "a famous or a well-known person and is merely a person who "many" people talk about or know about." It can be inferred from this definition that any person who has accrued fame in society and is well-known among the masses will attain the status of celebrity, be it in the field of entertainment, sports, fashion, etc. Through their hard work, such celebrities have created unique personalities surrounding their name, photographs, voices, etc. These unique personality traits have vested personality rights on such traits with celebrities. These rights of celebrities are not directly dealt with under the head of personality rights but have been discussed in the context of two primary rights: The right to publicity and the right to privacy.

The right to prevent others from wrongfully exploiting a person's identity, such as their voice, image, signature, name, etc., for monetary gains or without their consent. The right to privacy, as laid down in Judge K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017), is a "right to be left alone" and an extension of liberty. Anyone who utilizes another person's identity without that person's consent is said to have violated that person's fundamental right to privacy and, consequently, the personality rights of that person.


In Indian Jurisprudence, personality rights as a bundle of rights have nowhere to be explicitly dealt with, even in intellectual property rights statutes. These rights have been addressed by interpreting the existing common law principles and Intellectual Property Rights statutes. Personality rights can be seen as a concept of tortious liability under the purview of passing off, where the tort of misuse of personality or celebrity rights is recognized, especially when the plaintiff's personality is exploited for monetary gains and in cases where the plaintiff's personality is used in advertisements by the companies without that person's consent.

The concept of personality rights can be inferred from the Trademarks Act 1999, where celebrities take the route of trademarking to prevent any misuse of such registered trademarks, which has been provided under Section.14 of the Trademark Act, 1999, which restricts the usage of the registered name of the celebrity to associate with the registered individual dishonestly.6

The unique persona of celebrities is protectable under the Copyrights Act of 1957 as an extension of moral rights that insures artists, particularly sections. 38, 38A, and 38B of the Indian Copyrights Act, 1957 grants performers the right to be given credit and claim authorship of their performance.7 This indicates that a performer, any person who performs or presents any work, whether it is a musical, dramatic, or artistic performance,8 has a right over his performance and also has a negative right to restrict others from misusing their performance or any damage that is being caused to their reputation for any unauthorized purposes.

These are a few of the provisions in the Indian legal framework that indirectly protect the personality rights of celebrities. Still, the Indian judiciary played a significant role in shaping the protection granted to personality rights, which expanded the scope of protection of personality rights with each unique case in front of it.


Personality rights in the Indian landscape have been defined and evolved by way of the Indian Judiciary while deciding a few of the most pertinent cases, and they have been listed as follows:

Personality rights in the form of the right to privacy were first recognized explicitly by the Supreme Court9 in R Raja Gopal v. State of Tamil Nadu10, where the court observed that the personality right is said to be violated when a person's identity is used for any purpose without the consent of such person.

A pertinent observation was made by the Delhi High Court in Titan Industries v. M/s. Ramkumar Jewellers,11 where the need to protect celebrities' personalities was stressed in cases where advertisement companies have used the identity of celebrities without their consent to market their products/ services. The court further stated that this protection is not restrained to commercializing the celebrity's identity. But, it is the choice of the celebrities on when and how their identity should be commercialized, and this is the right to publicity vested with the celebrities.

The order of the Delhi High Court in Amitabh Bachchan v. Rajat Nagi12 highlighted the prevention of exploitation of an individual's personality rights from commercial exploitation or for monetary gain by third parties. The court has stated that the celebrity has autonomy over his name, voice, image, likeness, and other unique characteristics identifiable to him for commercial exploitation.

In Anil Kapoor v. Simply Life, India & Ors13 expanded on protecting personality rights. They observed that harming the reputation of such celebrities by unauthorized usage of their identity also affects the right to livelihood, privacy, and dignity within a social structure, among other rights that the Indian Constitution has protected.

The Indian judiciary, passing such orders restraining the infringers from tarnishing the image or reputation of the celebrities, has expanded the scope of personality rights in the Indian jurisprudence; with the evolving legal landscape, the identity of the individuals is being secured from any adverse use.


With the advent of technology and the rise in social media usage, a grey area has been created in the context of protecting personality rights. There has been a rise of social media influencers, who have made making reviews of artwork, creating parodies, memes, and GIFs their source of livelihood, and this has led to their intrusion in the ambit of protection of personality rights, where the performances of the celebrities, their names, images, voices which are identifiable to them are being used by these influencers to analyze the said works critically.

The court has rightly observed in the infamous case of Jackie Shroff14 that in the growing world of memes, spoofs, parodies, etc., these videos present an artistic expression that requires creators to engage thoughtfully with their content, and this process does not only have specific economic value but also creates employment opportunities for such creators. Protecting celebrities' personality rights in these circumstances will adversely affect those creators' freedom of speech and expression.

This judgment has set a precedent for protecting the rights, freedom of speech, and expression of individuals who are utilizing the identity traits of celebrities for rightful reasons of creating parodies, reviews, and spoofs.

The Judiciary discussed the protection from copyright infringement in cases of parodies and satirical dramas in two landmark judgments, Campbell v. Acuff- Rose Music, Inc. (1994)15 and Civic Chandran v. Ammini Amma (1996)16, respectively. The court established that parodies can be permitted from copyright infringement if they are transformative and do not substitute the original work. In satirical dramas, it was held that it is a form of criticism or commentary and, hence, permissible.

These developments in the growing digital world are progressive steps towards balancing the personality rights of celebrities and the freedom of speech and expression of individuals, who, without such an approach, would have been deterred from exercising their rights due to the legal consequences.


The concept of protecting the unique identity of well-known personalities in the Indian legal landscape does not have a definite path due to the absence of legislation that deals explicitly with personality rights, their protection, and the exceptions to such protection in the growing digital world.

There is an ever-growing need for stipulated legislation or guidelines on protecting such crucial elements of one's persona. The need for such protection of personality rights has been stressed multiple times, even recognized in other foreign countries. It has been protected under numerous international conventions to which India is a signatory. It is high time to set guidelines or a valid law to protect the right to privacy and personality rights.


  1. ICC Development (International) Ltd. vs. Arvee Enterprises 2003 (26) PTC 245 (DEL).
  2. Jaikishan Kakubhai Saraf v. Peppy Store, CS (COMM) 389 0f 2024.
  3. rights/#:~:text=Delhi%20High%20Court%2D%20In%20a,established%20a%20prima%20facie%20case
  4. Titan Industries Ltd. v. M/s. Ramkumar Jewellers 2012 SCC OnLine Del 2382.
  5. Vaishali, Personality Rights in India: Available Safeguards against Exploitation, 5 INT'l J.L. MGMT. & HUMAN. 800 (2022).
  6. Section 2(qq), The Indian Copyrights Act, 1957.
  7. R Raja Gopal v. State of Tamil Nadu Nadu (JT 1994 (6) SC 514).
  8. Amitabh Bachchan v. Rajat Nagi, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 4110.
  9. Anil Kapoor v. Simply Life, India & Ors, CS (COMM) 652/2023.
  10. Campbell v. Acuff- Rose Music, Inc, 510S. 569 (1994).
  11. Civic Chandran v/s C. Ammini Amma (1996) 16 PTC 329 (Ker.).


1. ICC Development (International) Ltd. Vs Arvee Enterprises 2003 (26) PTC 245 (DEL).

2. Jaikishan Kakubhai Saraf v. Peppy Store, CS (COMM) 389 0f 2024.

3. rights/#:~:text=Delhi%20High%20Court%2D%20In%20a,established%20a%20prima%20facie%20case

4. 2012 SCC OnLine Del 2382.

5. Vaishali, Personality Rights in India: Available Safeguards against Exploitation, 5 INT'l J.L. MGMT. & HUMAN. 800 (2022).

6. Id.

7. Jaikishan Kakubhai Saraf v. Peppy Store, CS (COMM) 389 of 2024.

8. Section 2(qq), The Indian Copyrights Act, 1957.

9. Vaishali, Personality Rights in India: Available Safeguards against Exploitation, 5 INT'l J.L. MGMT. & HUMAN. 800 (2022).

10. Nadu (JT 1994 (6) SC 514).

11. 2012 SCC OnLine Del 2382.

12. 2022 SCC OnLine Del 4110.

13. CS (COMM) 652/2023.

14. Jaikishan Kakubhai Saraf v. Peppy Store, CS (COMM) 389 of 2024.

15. 510 U.S. 569 (1994).

16. Civic Chandran v/s C. Ammini Amma (1996) 16 PTC 329 (Ker.).

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.

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