Delhi High Court’s Landmark Order: Protecting Anil Kapoor’s Persona in the Age of AI – An Indian Legal Perspective

In a groundbreaking decision that has far-reaching implications for the world of entertainment, privacy, and artificial intelligence (AI), the Delhi High Court recently passed an omnibus order aimed at safeguarding the rights of renowned actor Anil Kapoor. The court’s ruling[1], delivered by Justice Prathiba M Singh, serves as a significant milestone in the ongoing debate over the misuse of AI technology and its impact on individual rights, particularly those of celebrities. This article explores the implications of this landmark judgment, critically analyses its significance within the framework of Indian law, and engages with the broader implications for both the legal landscape and the entertainment industry.

The Battle for Anil Kapoor’s Persona: Legal Framework and Critical Analysis

At the heart of the case before the Delhi High Court was Anil Kapoor’s concern about the misuse of AI technology to exploit his image, voice, and persona for commercial gain without his consent. Kapoor’s plea was grounded in various aspects of Indian law that address issues related to intellectual property rights, privacy, and the protection of a person’s name and reputation.

Trademark and Copyright Laws: Kapoor sought to restrain unauthorized parties from using his name, voice, image, and iconic dialogues without his explicit consent, aligning with Indian trademark and copyright laws. However, this also prompts discussions about the limits of intellectual property protection in the digital age. How can laws adapt to the ever-evolving ways in which AI can manipulate and distribute content? Copyright law may not be sufficient to address situations where AI-generated content replicates a person’s voice or likeness without their consent. In Anil Kapoor’s case, while he sought to restrain the use of his name, voice, image, and iconic dialogues, it’s clear that copyright law does not directly address the replication of one’s persona through AI. Kapoor’s concern, like that of musicians mentioned in the article, goes beyond the traditional scope of copyright protection, emphasizing the need for a broader legal framework.

The argument against using copyright law to address AI-generated content, such as replicating a person’s voice or likeness, hinges on the foundational principles of copyright protection. Copyright law is predicated on the notion of human authorship, originality, and the safeguarding of specific creative works fixed in tangible mediums. AI-generated content, produced by algorithms and machines devoid of human creativity, lacks the hallmark of human authorship and originality that copyright law traditionally seeks to protect. Furthermore, AI’s role in replicating existing traits rather than creating entirely new works, along with its often fluid and ephemeral nature, challenges the applicability of copyright protection to AI-generated content, making it a less suitable legal avenue for addressing issues of AI-driven replication.

Distinction Between Performance Rights: It is also important to distinguish between the use of an actual person’s performance and AI-generated imitation of a performance. It rightly points out that traditional performance rights may not apply when AI replicates a performance since no prior performance has been copied. This distinction is crucial in understanding the limitations of relying solely on performance rights. Kapoor’s case aligns with this argument as the AI-generated content does not directly replicate his prior performances but rather imitates his voice and persona, raising questions about the applicability of traditional performance rights. Relying solely on traditional performance rights to address issues arising from the unauthorized use of AI-generated content presents limitations due to the fundamental distinction between actual human performances and AI imitations. Performance rights, which protect tangible, recorded, or live performances, are ill-suited to situations where AI replicates or simulates performances without directly copying a specific human act. In such cases, there is no tangible, recorded performance to protect, making it challenging to establish ownership, authorization, or compensation rights. Additionally, the complexity of AI-generated imitations blurs the line between human and machine, further complicating the application of traditional performance rights. Therefore, alternative legal frameworks or specific AI-related legislation may be needed to effectively address the unique challenges posed by AI-generated content.

Personality Rights and Privacy: It would be interesting to explore a compelling alternative in the form of personality rights, also known as the right to publicity or image rights. It highlights that personality rights protect an individual’s name, image, likeness, or other distinctive aspects of their persona. Indian law recognizes an individual’s right to control and profit from their personality, often encompassed within the broader framework of the right to privacy.  This is especially relevant to Kapoor’s case, as it centers on the unauthorized use of his distinctive persona, including his voice and iconic dialogues. Kapoor’s concern resonates with the idea that his unique qualities, such as his voice, contribute to his personal identity and artistic expression, making personality rights a plausible safeguard. Kapoor’s contention that his persona was being exploited without his consent highlights the tension between the right to privacy and the right to free expression. While the court rightly upheld Kapoor’s personality rights, it raises questions about the delicate balance between freedom of speech and individual rights.

The broader discussion on this aspect has already been previously done at The IP Press in this post.

Earlier Decisions

In previous prominent legal precedents, Indian courts have unequivocally championed the preservation of celebrity personality rights. In the case of Amitabh Bachchan[2], the Delhi High Court issued a decisive injunction to safeguard distinctive facets of his persona. This encompassed his iconic nickname “Big B,” which had become indelibly associated with him, and his unique way of addressing computers as “Computer ji.” The court’s ruling made it clear that these elements were exclusive to Bachchan and should not be exploited for commercial gain without his consent. Similarly, in the case of Rajnikanth[3], the Madras High Court underscored the significance of personality rights by examining the use of his name in a movie titled, “Main hoon Rajnikanth.” The court’s observation highlighted that Rajnikanth’s high reputation meant that such associations could not be casually made without his authorization. These legal milestones have laid a strong foundation for the protection of personality rights in India, sending a resounding message that celebrities hold exclusive rights to their distinctive features and that unauthorized commercial exploitation will not be tolerated.

The Court’s Verdict: Protecting the Persona within Indian Law

Justice Prathiba M Singh’s verdict in favour of Anil Kapoor is firmly rooted in Indian legal principles. The court’s order halted the unauthorized use of Kapoor’s name, likeness, voice, and any aspect of his persona for creating merchandise, ringtones, and other commercial purposes. This ruling effectively upholds Kapoor’s personality rights and aligns with the protection of intellectual property as defined in Indian law.

The court’s order to suspend and block domains that misused Kapoor’s identity underscores the power of Indian authorities to enforce such protection in the digital realm. Additionally, the directive to MEITY to issue blocking orders against pornographic content featuring morphed images of the actor underscores the court’s commitment to upholding Kapoor’s reputation and privacy.

AI’s Role in the Tarnishing of Kapoor’s Image: Indian Perspective – A Critical Lens

Advocate Pravin Anand, representing Anil Kapoor, highlighted the misuse of AI technology to manipulate the actor’s image and persona. He pointed out how AI was being exploited to create misleading and potentially damaging content. This misuse of AI technology is a pertinent concern within Indian law, as it can lead to defamation and the violation of an individual’s privacy. This issue shines a spotlight on the need for comprehensive regulations addressing AI-generated content and its consequences, both positive and negative.

The Complex Issue of “Jhakaas”: An Indian Legal Dilemma – A Balanced Perspective

The court’s deliberations over whether to extend protection to the use of the word “Jhakaas” exemplify the nuanced nature of Indian law. While the court initially expressed reservations, it ultimately acknowledged the potential for other celebrities to face similar issues if their personas were tarnished or exploited. This recognition highlights the adaptability of Indian law to address evolving challenges posed by AI and digital media. However, it also underscores the need for a case-by-case approach when evaluating the protection of distinctive expressions, as the balance between free speech and personal rights can be delicate.

The Broader Implications: Indian Legal Precedent and Beyond

The Delhi High Court’s judgment in Anil Kapoor’s case has set a precedent within Indian law for the protection of celebrity rights in the digital age. It reaffirms the significance of safeguarding a celebrity’s persona from unauthorized commercial exploitation and the misuse of AI technology. This judgment serves as a reminder that Indian law must adapt to protect both individuals and their invaluable personas as technology continues to evolve.

However, the broader implications extend beyond Indian borders. As technology knows no boundaries, legal precedents like this will likely influence discussions on the global stage. The world is grappling with similar questions surrounding the use of AI in content creation, deepfakes, and the protection of individual rights. Kapoor’s case sets a significant example for other jurisdictions to consider when tackling these complex issues.

Conclusion

The Delhi High Court’s omnibus order in Anil Kapoor’s case sends a clear message about the protection of celebrity rights within the framework of Indian law in the digital age. It highlights the need to safeguard the persona of public figures from unauthorized commercial exploitation and the misuse of AI technology. However, it also raises vital questions about the evolving landscape of AI, privacy, and free expression. As technology continues to evolve, legal precedents like this will play a crucial role in defining the boundaries of individual rights and the responsibilities of those who create and distribute digital content. This judgment within the Indian legal context serves as a testament to the adaptability of the law and its commitment to protecting the rights and reputations of individuals, even in the era of AI.


[1] Anil Kapoor vs Simply Life India & Ors on 20 September, 2023

[2] Amitabh Bachchan vs Rajat Nagi & Ors on 25 November, 2022

[3] Mr.Shivaji Rao Gaikwad vs M/S.Varsha Productions on 3 February, 2015

About Amisha Mittal 12 Articles
Amisha Mittal is a final-year law student pursuing a BA. LLB. (Hons) at Jindal Global Law School, Haryana. Her interest areas align with Intellectual Property Law, Competition law and other technology related laws. She shares a passion for research and writing and with a strong interest in academia, she aspires to contribute to the legal scholarship in these areas.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*