Amitabh Bachchan’s voice, image can’t be used without his permission: Delhi HC

The Indian Express | 4 days ago | 25-11-2022 | 02:50 pm

Amitabh Bachchan’s voice, image can’t be used without his permission: Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court on Friday granted an interim injunction restraining several people from violating veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan’s “publicity rights” as a celebrity.Senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Bachchan, argued that there were several people who were using the actor’s name, voice and image without his permission to promote their own goods and services. Advocate Pravin Anand also appeared for Bachchan in the matter.Salve pointed out that while some people were running a lottery using Bachchan’s name and the KBC logo, others were selling T-shirts with his image. “This nonsense has been going on for a while…there is a lottery in Gujarat where the defendant has brazenly copied (the) logo of KBC where his photographs are all over it…it appears to be scam…There is no lottery…no one wins,” Salve said.Some of the defendants were selling posters with Bachchan’s name, Salve further said, adding that there was also an Amitabh Bachchan video call facility, where the caller could speak to a person who sounded like Bachchan. The description of the mobile application, named ‘Amitabh Bachchan Video Call’, is available for download on mobile phones and states that “Amitabh Bachchan is a fake video call app and can also do voice chatting but that too prank call. Amitabh Bachchan is one of the biggest superstars of Bollywood. Amitabh Bachchan also plays cubs (sic) and entertains people”, the plea pointed out.Salve also submitted that there were people who had also registered “domain names” in Bachchan’s names and all these activities had taken place without his knowledge and permission.“We have also sought a John Doe action also as we don’t know how many other people are there involved in this…,” Salve said. “We seek an injunction, and we have given notice to all defendants but none have appeared,” Salve added.Salve said that his client had sought an interim injunction restraining the defendants from violating the “publicity, personality rights” and infringing on Bachchan’s name, voice and image for any commercial purpose.Granting an “ex-parte ad interim injunction”, a single judge bench of Justice Navin Chawla held that it cannot be disputed that Bachchan is a well-known personality and is also represented in various advertisements.“The plaintiff is aggrieved by the defendants from unauthorizedly using his celebrity status to promote their goods and services without his permission or authorization. I am of the considered opinion that the plaintiff has made out a good prima facie case in his favour. The balance of convenience also lies in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendant,” the high court observed.“The defendants appear to be using his (Bachchan’s) status for promoting their own activities without his permission, wherein the plaintiff is likely to suffer grave loss and irreparable injury. In fact, some of the activities may also bring disrepute to the plaintiff,” the high court further observed.The high court also directed the Department of Telecommunications and the Ministry of Information and Technology to pull down all links/websites provided in the plea that unlawfully infringe Bachchan’s publicity rights.Additionally, the court directed telecom service providers to block access to all phone numbers used by the defendants to circulate messages on messaging apps such as WhatsApp where the messages amount to an infringement of Bachchan’s rights.The plea states that Bachchan is a person with celebrity status and thus has “personality/publicity/celebrity rights’ over all facets of his personality. “The plaintiff (Bachchan) has control over the commercial utilization of his personality, name, voice, image, likeness and other characteristics that are uniquely identifiable and associated with the plaintiff,” the plea contends.The plea further argues that “no one can utilize and/or misappropriate and/or imitate any facet of the plaintiff’s personality (including but not limited to his name; voice; image; and any other distinctive elements that are uniquely associated with him) and/or exploit the same commercially in any manner whatsoever without the consent and/or express authorization of the plaintiff”.The plea contends that the aspects of Bachchan’s personality which are protectable include his name, voice, image/photograph/likeness and unique style of dialogue.With respect to his name, the plea states that Bachchan’s name carries “enormous goodwill and reputation” and is “exclusively associated” with him. “The plaintiff has become a household name not only in India but also all over the world for more than the last 50 years. Such is the distinct character of the name that in the public perception, whenever the name of the plaintiff, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan is mentioned, it is immediately identified and related with him and no one else,” the plea contends. 

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