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Why did the Delhi High Court restrict use of Amitabh Bachchan’s image and voice?

The order raises important questions about how to to protect IPR of a public figure whilst securing people’s right to expression

The Delhi High Court has restricted the use of Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan’s likeness and voice in an interim order, according to a report in Bar and Bench.

  • A single-judge bench, comprising Justice Navin Chawla, passed the order in a suit filed by Amitabh Bachchan which sought an order preventing the use of his “name, image, voice or any of his characteristics” without his consent, the report added.
  • He has also sought a restraining order against book publishers, T-shirt vendors and various other businesses, as per Bar and Bench.

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Why it matters: It is important to make note of the suit because it casts the spotlight on India’s intellectual property rights (IPR) laws. The order raises important questions about how to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) of a public figure whilst securing people’s right to expression. It is also a timely reminder that the Indian government may need to relook at the IPR laws of the country.

What did the court say: The court said that a prima facie case was made out in favour of the actor and against the defendants, LiveLaw reported. Justice Chawla said that the defendants appear to be using Bachchan’s celebrity status without his permission, it added.

  • He directed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to order internet service providers to pull down all links mentioned in the suit, Bar and Bench said.
  • He also ordered telecom service providers to block access to all phone numbers used by the defendants to circulate messages on messaging apps, like WhatsApp, the report added.

What did the suit argue: App developers were using Bachchan’s name, image and voice to run lotteries by associating their apps with Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), a show hosted by Bachchan, LiveLaw reported.

  • Bachchan was represented by Harish Salve who argued that these were scams being conducted under the garb of lotteries. Salve also argued that Bachchan’s face had been on t-shirts and there were domain names like “amitabhbachchan.com” and “amitabhbachchan.in”.
  • The suit seeks a John Doe order which raises an interesting question of whether impersonators can earn a livelihood by impersonating Bachchan’s personality who is probably India’s most prominent actor.
  • The suit also seeks an order for damages to the sum of Rs 2,00,01,000 in favour of the actor and against the defendants on account of loss of his reputation and goodwill, according to LiveLaw.

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I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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