Our celebrities’ lives have become so public lately that most of us have almost forgotten that they have a personal life too, which like all of us they would want to keep secret and private, [read away from the paparazzi]. For Instance, what I do in my free time I wouldn’t want my mom to find out, forget about finding it on the news on national TV, or making Headlines in the next day newspaper, after all My life, My Rules! Duh! Let’s take another instance where random people keep calling you to know, what color PJs you wear while sleeping, too personal a question, right? same goes with our beloved celebrities too.

You just need to walk down a street in India to find companies selling all sorts of products from socks, to bags to cosmetics, conveniently using a celebrity’s face, or dialogue from a movie, or a gift hamper stating a chance to meet them, spend a day with them, and all sorts of deals just to sell their products, and earn them big fat profits. But such profits are justified when they are done with prior consent from such personalities and their knowledge of such event happening, but not when it’s done without their slightest knowledge. These are broadly treated as a Celebrity Rights which is a combination of Personality Rights, Publicity Rights and Privacy Rights.

Personality Rights: An individual’s contribution to society is his right and such personality rights are protected.

Privacy Rights: Celebrities try to keep their personal information as private as possible in order to avoid embarrassment, also the Constitution under Article 21 recognizes this Right to Privacy as a fundamental Right. Celebrities may also find recourse in an action of invasion of privacy.

Publicity Rights: The right to use the value of the fame of a celebrity is known as publicity rights. In this regard, it would be pertinent to mention that fame is an act projected to augment sales.

Publicity rights in the form of the right to privacy were first recognized explicitly by the Supreme Court in RR RajaGopal v State of Tamil Nadu (JT 1994 (6) SC 514). In that case, the court opined that: “The first aspect of this right must be said to have been violated where, for example, a person’s name or likeness is used, without his consent, for advertising – or non-advertising – purposes or for any other matter.”  There have many such rulings since then, by various Courts.

One of the most popular judicial opinions has been pronounced in the case of Barber vs. Times Inc wherein a photographer took pictures of Dorothy Barber when she was hospitalized for an eating disorder. Ms. Barber had filed a suit of “Invasion of Privacy” against Time Inc. for unauthorized and forceful entry into her hospital room and for photographing her despite her protests. Ms. Barber was successful in her suit and the court while awarding damages of 3000$ opined:- “In publishing details of private matters, the media may report accurately and yet – at least on some occasions – may be found liable for damages. Lawsuits for defamation will not stand where the media have accurately reported the truth, but the media nevertheless could lose an action for invasion of privacy based on similar facts situations. In such instances the truth sometimes hurts.”

The recent case of Sourav Ganguly v. Tata Tea ltd. wherein Sourav Ganguly who returned form Lords after scoring magnificent centuries found himself extremely disturbed when he realized that Tata Tea Ltd., in which he was employed as a manager, was promoting it’s 1 kilo tea packet by offering the consumers a chance to congratulate Sourav through a postcard which was there inside each packet of tea. In a way indirectly what the company intended was to promote the sale of its tea packet in the Indian market where Sourav had earned considerable amount of popularity. The court ruled in favour of Sourav by accepting that his fame and popularity were his Intellectual Property.

These number of cases are rising day by day, and the time has come when stricter and solid laws have to be made to protect the interests and the private rights of our celebrities.

This article has been authored by Prachi, an IP Law practitioner.