Through an interim order, the Delhi Court on September 20 prohibited unauthorised use of actor Anil Kapoor’s name, voice, image, and other personality traits for commercial gains by various entities, including e-commerce companies, social media platforms, and the public at large, according to reports by LiveLaw and Bar & Bench. Interestingly, in view of the actor’s “personality rights”, Justice Pratibha M Singh also restrained the use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools for manipulating his pictures and using them for creating digital content like GIFs illegally for monetary gains.
What was Kapoor’s complaint about?
Kapoor has filed a suit, reviewed by MediaNama, seeking protection of his personality rights and a restraining order against entities, including John Does, from misusing his name or acronym ‘AK’, nicknames like ‘Lakhan’, ‘Mr. India’, his dialogues like ‘Jhakaas’, and his voice and images without his permission.
The actor has specifically raised objections regarding the “unscrupulous use of technology” such as AI, deepfakes, face morphing techniques, to create photos, audio-visuals that feature Kapoor’s name and image superimposed on other people, GIFs tec. The suit also sought directions to stop unauthorised sale or dissemination of any such merchandise or products like keychains, T-shirts, posters, coffee-mug, cut-outs, and other audio-visual content.
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“It is emphasized that it is of grave concern to the Plaintiff [Anil Kapoor] that in the context of Personality/Publicity Rights, tools such as generative artificial intelligence are being used by individuals, at the prejudice and cost of the Plaintiff’s hard-earned goodwill and reputation,” read the plea.
Kapoor, in his suit, has argued that such unchecked and unauthorised use of elements that related to his personality and creative work have acquired a “unique distinctiveness” due to his reputation as a celebrity, work in over 100 films, TV shows, web-series and advertisements. He contended that any third-party use of such content without permission is “bound to” cause “confusion and deception” among the general public regarding the actor’s association with the parties. Further, he added that such actions infringe upon his exclusive rights over his works, while the creators commercially benefit from elements associated with his persona.
“The Plaintiff is a respected figure amongst the masses and therefore, enjoys ‘Personality / Publicity Rights’ over all facets of his personality. The Plaintiff has control over the commercial utilization of his personality, name, signature, voice, image, likeness and other characteristics that are uniquely identifiable and associated with the Plaintiff,” the document added.
What did the court say?
- In addition to restricting the defendants from using the actor’s name, voice, image etc for commercial gains, the Court directed immediate blocking and suspension of the domain names involved in such actions, and that such links must be taken down by the internet service providers.
- According to reports, the Court observed that unauthorised use of a person’s name, voice, dialogue etc cannot be justified. “The celebrities’ right to endorsement could in fact be a major source for livelihood which cannot be allowed by destroyed by permitting illegal merchandise,” the judge added.
- On the misuse of AI for morphing Kapoor’s image, Justice Singh stated, “The technological tools now available make it possible for any illegal and unauthorised user to make use of any celebrity’s persona by using such tools including AI. The celebrity also enjoys right to privacy and doesn’t wish that his or her image, voice is portrayed in a dark manner as is being done on porn websites.”
- Further, the Court also said that while free speech rights in relation to satire, criticism and writings is protected, when the same “crosses the line” tarnishing or jeopardising an individual’s personality and “elements associated with the individual”, the same expression would be considered illegal.
Why it matters:
The arguments made by the Court in this case indicate how the judiciary will treat cases involving deepfakes created using AI and their rising presence on the internet. Deep fake refers to a hoax or fake content on the internet— images, audio, or video–created using artificial intelligence. These fake images or videos appear convincing enough to represent someone’s original voice, actions or even facial expressions. Deep fakes can be used to deceive people, facilitate impersonation scams, extortion, financial frauds, or as is in Kapoor’s case, to mislead users and gain monetarily.
The case also raises a pertinent question of what can be determined as a legitimate use of Copyrighted works, for example, using a phrase of Kapoor’s dialogue for satire, mimicry, by artists as well as users on social media? Will usage of every dialogue or information relating to the actor’s personality anywhere on in the internet will require authorisation from the actor? In November 2022, the Delhi HC had passed a similar order restricting the use of Amitabh Bachchan’s name, image, voice or any other characteristics” without his consent. The scope of such orders go beyond the entities in question, raising ambiguities about different aspects of celebrity rights in relation to their personality traits and works, especially in an AI age.
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