New Delhi, 20 September 2023 – In a significant legal development, the Delhi High Court, on Wednesday, issued an interim order that serves to safeguard the personality rights of renowned Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor. The court’s ruling restrains various entities from exploiting his image, name, voice, or other elements of his persona for financial gains without obtaining his explicit consent.
The Honorable Justice Prathiba M Singh presided over this pivotal case and, in addition to protecting Kapoor’s rights, also placed restrictions on “other unknown persons” who have been disseminating various videos. The court has included links to these videos in the order and has directed all internet service providers to promptly remove them.
The essence of the court’s decision lies in an interim injunction order, a legal measure implemented in response to Kapoor’s suit, which seeks to shield his personality rights from any infringement. Kapoor’s suit aims to restrain numerous entities, even including those referred to as “John Does,” from encroaching upon his personality rights by employing his name, acronym ‘AK,’ beloved nicknames like ‘Lakhan,’ ‘Mr. India,’ ‘Majnu Bhai,’ and the iconic phrase ‘Jhakaas.’ Furthermore, the suit extends its protective scope to Kapoor’s voice and images, prohibiting their unauthorized use for commercial gain.
Anil Kapoor has also taken the initiative to safeguard his personality rights from any potential misuse, including through modern technology such as artificial intelligence, deepfakes, and GIFs. This comprehensive legal action includes an application seeking an interim injunction against the defendants for the duration of the lawsuit.
The legal representation for the esteemed Bollywood actor was provided by a team of accomplished advocates, including AmeetNaik, Pravin Anand, Madhu Gadodia, Dhruv Anand, and AbhaShah.
One of the noteworthy directives issued by the court involves the blocking and suspension of three domain names that employ Kapoor’s name. These domains will subsequently be transferred to Kapoor’s ownership upon the fulfillment of requisite charges.
Justice Singh firmly stated, “Accordingly, the plaintiff has made out a prima facie case for the grant of interim injunction.” The court’s order explicitly restrains defendants numbered 1 through 16 from utilizing Kapoor’s name, image, voice, likeness, or personality to create merchandise, ringtones, or any content that misuses his name and other elements, employing technological tools like artificial intelligence, face morphing, and GIFs. Such exploitation, whether for monetary gains or the creation of commercial videos, is now unequivocally prohibited.
The court also imposed specific actions on defendants numbered 17, 19, and 20, instructing them to promptly block and suspend the domain names in question. Furthermore, all other unidentified individuals are also prohibited from disseminating videos identified in the court’s order. These videos must be promptly removed by all internet service providers.
During the court’s deliberation, Justice Singh reflected on the dual nature of fame, acknowledging that while it can bring great benefits, it also carries disadvantages. This case exemplifies how a person’s reputation and fame can turn into a detriment.
The court maintained that while free speech, satire, and legitimate criticism are constitutionally protected forms of expression, they must not transgress the boundaries that lead to harm to an individual’s reputation and personality.
“Using a person’s name, voice, dialogue, image in an illegal manner, especially for commercial purposes, cannot be permitted,” the court affirmed. Celebrities’ rights of endorsement serve as a significant source of livelihood for them, and this cannot be wholly undermined by the exploitation of their persona for merchandising or similar purposes.
The court further emphasized the potential risks posed by modern technological tools, which empower unauthorized users to manipulate a celebrity’s persona through means such as artificial intelligence. Protecting celebrities’ rights to privacy and ensuring that their image and voice are not portrayed negatively are crucial aspects of this legal precedent.
The court expressed concern that not only is the actor’s image being manipulated, but it also adversely affects other third parties, including actresses. Therefore, the court cannot turn a blind eye to such misuse and considers tarnishment a justifiable concern that Kapoor must be shielded from.
“The court has no doubt in holding that the plaintiff’s name, voice, persona, etc., deserve protection, not only for his sake but also for the sake of his friends and family who would not like to see his name being misused and tarnished,” the court emphasized.
Anil Kapoor’s case revolves around the unique distinctiveness of his name, voice, image, and persona, all of which have been cultivated through a prolific career spanning over 100 films, TV shows, web series, and advertisements. He argues that any third party exploiting his personality rights would cause confusion and deception among the general public regarding their association with the actor.
This legal victory for Anil Kapoor echoes a similar success achieved by veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan in a case from November of the previous year. A coordinated bench granted Bachchan relief in his suit, which sought protection of his publicity rights against fraudulent activities, such as the fake Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) lottery scam and other online frauds. These schemes deceitfully utilized Bachchan’s photo and voice, deceiving the public in the process.
In conclusion, the Delhi High Court’s interim order in favor of Anil Kapoor marks a significant legal milestone in protecting the personality rights of public figures and celebrities in the era of advanced technology and digital media. This ruling not only safeguards Kapoor’s rights but also sends a clear message regarding the illegal exploitation of celebrities’ names and personas for commercial gain.