Personality Rights and Their Protection
May 24, 2024

Why in news?

Recently, Hollywood Actress Scarlett Johansson claimed that the GPT-4o's voice, sounds very similar to her own. She has accused OpenAI of using her voice without permission despite previously declining licensing requests from CEO Sam Altman.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Background
  • Personality Rights
  • Personality rights in India


  • GPT-4o
    • Recently, OpenAI unveiled its latest AI model called GPT-4o, saying it would improve on the existing features of ChatGPT.
    • One such feature, named Voice Mode, lets users have voice conversations with the AI chatbot, and lets them choose from five kinds of voices.
  • Johansson and Sky
    • Johansson said one of these voices, named ‘Sky’, was allegedly copying her voice.
  • Response of OpenAI
    • OpenAI later said it was pausing the availability of Sky.
    • It added in a statement that Sky was not Johansson’s voice but another voice actor’s, and was never intended to resemble hers.

The personality rights:

  • About
    • The name, voice, signature, images or any other feature easily identified by the public are markers of a celebrity’s personality and are referred loosely as personality rights.
    • These could include a pose, a mannerism or any aspect of their personality.
    • Many celebrities even register some aspects as a trademark to use them commercially.
      • For example, Usain Bolt’s “bolting” or lightning pose is a registered trademark.
    • The idea is that only the owner or creator of these distinct features has the right to derive any commercial benefit from it.
  • Types of personality rights
    • Personality rights are divided into two categories:
      • The right of publicity, or the right to keep one’s image and likeness from being commercially exploited without permission. It is similar (but not identical) to the use of a trademark.
      • The right to privacy or the right to not have one’s personality represented publicly without permission.

Personality rights in India

  • Legal/Constitutional basis
    • Personality rights or their protection are not expressly mentioned in a statute in India.
    • However, these rights are traced to fall under the right to privacy and the right to property.
      • Even as the Delhi High Court and the Madras High Court have passed interim orders, the law is at a nascent stage in India.
  • Existing provisions
    • In India, the publicity rights are governed by statutes like the Trademarks Act 1999 and the Copyright Act 1957.
    • With the 2017 judgment (Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India), the personality rights were elevated to the position of constitutional rights.
      • The ruling recognised the right to privacy as a fundamental right derived from the right to life & personal liberty (Article 21 of Indian Constitution).
      • The court ruled that an individual may be permitted to prevent others from using his/her image, name and other aspects of his/her personal life and identity for commercial purposes without his/her consent.
  • Other SC judgements
    • Shivaji Rao Gaikwad (aka Rajinikanth) v. Varsha Production: Though there is no definition for the personality right under any statute in India, the Courts in India have recognized the personality right in various judgments.
    • ICC Development (International) Ltd., Vs. Arvee Enterprises: The right of publicity has evolved from the right of privacy and any effort to take away this right from the individuals would be violative of Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
  • Personality rights on internet
    • In 2011, the Delhi HC (in Arun Jaitley vs Network Solutions Pvt Ltd) stated that the popularity or fame of individuals will be no different on the internet than in reality.
    • Name, due to its peculiar nature/distinctive character, coupled with the gained popularity has become a well-known personal mark under the trademark law.
  • Personal rights vs consumer rights
    • Celebrities are protected from commercial misuse of their name and personality.
    • However, there have also been instances where the consumers are misled owing to false advertisements or endorsements by such personalities.
    • Due to such cases, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs has made a notification - Guidelines on Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022
      • It aims to keep a check on misleading adverts of consumer products by imposing a penalty on the endorser.
  • Recent examples from India
    • In September 2023, the Delhi High Court had passed an interim order protecting the personality rights of Anil Kapoor.
      • Anil Kapoor had sought to restrain the use of his name, the acronym AK, his voice, image, as well as his characters like Lakhan, Mr. India, Majnu Bhai, Nayak and the phrase jhakaas with his photo without his consent.
    • In May 2024, the Delhi High Court protected the personality and publicity rights of Jackie Shroff.
      • It restrained various e-commerce stores, AI chatbots, etc. from misusing the actor’s name, image, voice, and likeness without his consent.