Understanding Personality Rights: Protecting Your Name and Likeness

We have recently seen various celebrities such as Yuvraj Singh, Karan Johar, Anil Kapoor and recently Jackie Shroff filing a suit based on the concept of personality rights. What are personality rights?

A celebrity has popularity which encompasses theirname, fame, and reputation and this shallconstitutethe goodwill of an individual. These celebrities have a wide range of people who adore them, whom we call fans. Because of this goodwill reputation of an individual, it is easy to acquire a wide range of customers to a product when it is advertised by a celebrity. For theadvertisements, celebrities shallbe termed as the brand ambassadors for the product or advertisements through paid partnerships. Celebrities also have a say in how their name is utilized in the advertisement of a product and for what duration of time.  But no individual has a right to utilize a person’s image, voice, likeliness, etc for advertisements or any other purposes without their permission or consent, this is termed as the personality right of an individual.

Personality rights are those rights that encompass the protection of an individual’s personality attributes such as his name, his voice, his images, etc. Personality rights are all about protecting an individual’s unique personality. It’sa part of their overall right to privacy or property. These rights areimportant for famous personalities or celebrities because their names, pictures, or voices can easily get exploited by companies trying to grab attention of the audience or customers. Personality rights can be split into two categories:

  1. the right to publicity
  2. the right to privacy.

The right to privacy means a very specific right that is designed to maintain individuals’ privacy and to give them the right to make decisions about their own private matters. It stops unauthorized access to personal information and privacy violations.

The landmark judgment on the right to privacy is Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v Union of India (2017)[1] a 9 judge bench delivered a unanimous judgment stating that the right to privacy is a fundamental right and this can be traced back to article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. [2]

Right to publicity means a specific right that gives an individual a right to publish documents such as images, individual works of art, literature, movies, television series, etc. The landmark judgment regarding the right to publicity is R. Rajagopalan V. State of Tamil Nadu[3]. According to this judgment the Supreme Court stated that “the very initial aspect of the right to privacy must be said to have been violated where, for example, a person’s name or likeness is used, without his consent”.The various other judgments on the right to privacy are

ICC Development (International) vs. Arvee Enterprises and Anr,[4]here it was held that use of generic references to a word such as  “World Cup” did not amount to an infringement of ICC Development’s publicity rights or passing off, given the lack of consumer confusion about sponsorship or endorsement,The awareness of the consumers and the fact of usage of a generic term was taken into consideration.  The judgment highlights the need to balance publicity rights with ensuring that the freedom of speech of an individual is not violated.

Titan Industries Ltd. vs M/S Ramkumar Jewellers[5]the court held that a celebrity shall have a proprietary interest in his/her name, personality, and likeness, which cannot be exploited by others without their consent. It established that the test for infringement means whether the use of the celebrity’s identity is likely to deceive or cause confusion in the minds of the public that the product/service is endorsed or associated with the celebrity even when it is not so.

The recent celebrity who was in the limelight for violation of hispersonality rights under IP law was Jackie Shroff with the case titleJaikishan Kakubhai Saraf Alias Jackie Shroff V. The Peppy Store &Ors.[6]Let’s have a detailed view of this case. The present suit was filed before the Delhi High Court.

Facts of the Case:

Jackie Shroff, is a renowned Indian actor(Bollywood) with a career spanning over 220 films, television shows as well as web series has recently on the 14th of May 2024 filed a lawsuit to safeguard his personality rights.Shroff alleged that there are various entities, including e-commerce stores, AI chatbots, and social media accounts, which were using his name, image, voice and also likeness without his explicit consent for usage of the same for commercial purposes. The defendants consisted of companies that were selling products like wall art, merchandise, posters, and ringtones featuring Shroff’s persona, as well as individuals publishing derogatory content and distorting his videos. Shroff also sought to restrain the unidentified persons (impleaded as John Does) from using his name in connection with pornographic content.

Issue of the case

  1. Whether Jackie Shroff has established a prima facie case for the grant of an ex-parte interim injunction to restrain the defendants from using his name, image, voice and other attributes without authorization?
  2. Whether the use of Jackie Shroff’s persona by the defendants amounts to infringement of his privacy rights, publicity rights and passing off ?
  3. Whether the court should grant an omnibus order to protect Jackie Shroff’s personality rights against the will of the defendants?

Arguments of the Case

The petitioners argued that :

Jackie Shroff has invested considerable time, effort, and skill to cultivate the goodwill and reputation associated with his name, image, and persona within the film industry. He has become a household name for the quality of work that has been produced by him.

Jackie Shroff has proprietary rights over his personality attributes such as name, images, likeliness etc, and the unauthorized commercial exploitation of these of an individual amounts to the infringement of his publicity rights and passing off.

The misappropriation of Jackie Shroff’s personality without his permission is liable to be restrained not only on the basis of publicity rights, but also on the grounds of dilution.

Several social media companies, stores, social media handles as well as AI tools are using Jackie Shroff’s attributes without authorization, which inturn is ensuring of making money and creating confusion/damage to his reputation in the minds of the consumer or the public at large.

Judgment of the Case:

The court by taking into consideration of the extensive facts presented by Jackie Shroff, which affirmed his celebrity status and the inherent rights over his personality and the associated attributes.

Relying on judicial precedents such as  Titan Industries v. Ramkumar Jewellers and Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co., the court recognized Jackie Shroff’s proprietary interest in his name, image, voice and likeness.The court also held that the unauthorized commercial use of Shroff’s persona by the defendants is likely to cause  confusion and deception in the minds of the consumers, amounting to the infringement of his publicity rights and passing off.

Accordingly, the Delhi High Court granted an ex-parte ad-interim injunction restraining the specific defendants from using Jackie Shroff’s name, image, voice or any other attributes without his consent.However, the court refused to direct them to takedown of a video on YouTube that compiled Jackie Shroff’s publicly available interview clips, as it was considered a form of artistic expression which are protected under the right to free speech or freedom of speech.The court also directed the Department of Telecommunications and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to instruct telecommunication and internet service providers to block specified infringing URLs and links with respect to Jackie Shorff’s personality right.

The court did not grant an omnibus order protecting Jackie Shroff’s personality rights against the world at large that is the defendant companies such as e-commerce platforms, AI Chatbots, Social Media Accounts etc, stating that the defendants’ response would be considered before passing further orders in the future date for orders given by the Delhi High Court.


The concept of personality rights in India is continuously developing, as courts rely on privacy, publicity, and passing off principles to safeguard the characteristics of well-known individuals such as film stars, politicians, authors, poets etc. Although there is no defined legal structure in place that talks about the personality rights , the courts have acknowledged the importance of protecting the commercial worth and also individual pride linked to one’s identity.

Celebrities have a legal right to control the usage of their name, image, voice, and likeness without their permissionfrom others.Using a person’s identity for business purposes without permission can lead to confusion and deception among consumers, which violates their right to publicity.

Nonetheless, the right to publicity needs to be weighed against other rights that are available to an individual such as freedom of speech and expression.The concept of personality rights covers the right to privacy (avoiding invasive media coverage) and also the right to publicity (preventing unauthorized commercial use).

As technology advances, the legal system needs to adapt in order to look into the identity theft and misuse more effectively. Simultaneously, it has to make sure that the lawful purposes of public information and creative expression are not unfairly limited. There should be protection for an individual’s personal rights for them to have a secure life in the society. 

To conclude with the personality rights are crucial for preserving human dignity and autonomy. The Supreme Court has ruled that the right to privacy is a crucial aspect of the right to life and personal liberty protected by Article 21 of the Constitution. Upholding this right is vital for defending the basic freedoms of every individual, regardless of their level of fame. These personality rights are not only available for celebrities but also for every individual in the country.

[1]2019 (1) SCC 1, Supreme Court of India.

[2] Article 14, 19 and 21 of Constitution of India.

[3]1994 (6) SCC 632, Supreme Court of India.

[4]2003(26)PTC245(DEL), Delhi High Court.

[5]CS(OS) No.2662/2011, Delhi High Court.

[6]CS(COMM) 389/2024, Delhi High Court.

Spandana V Sudheer 

5th Year, BBA LLB Hons in Corporate Law at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun, India

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