India: Being Famous: A Boon Or A Bane?

Last Updated: 8 January 2014
Article by Vaibhavi Pandey

"I give the fight up: let there be an end, a privacy, an obscure nook for me. I want to be forgotten even by God"- Robert Browning, a famous poet and dramatist.

The word "CELEBRITY" in itself brings the picture of a person with name, fame and popularity, always gathered by crowd, in our minds. The word "celebrity" owes its origin to the Latin term "celebritatem" which means "the condition of being famous". The official definition of the term celebrity may be stated as "a person, who has a prominent profile and commands some degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media".1 Even the slightest details of these celebrities are treated as news by all. Being continuously in the limelight, under the vision of camera, however, fascinating it may sound but it has its own consequences. With the expansion and development of technology related to mass-media, there has been a considerable increase in the instances where the privacy rights of celebrities have been abused and infringed by the general public. Every celebrity has the right of protecting and enjoying the rights like right of publicity or right to earn commercial benefits arising out of their identity without getting interfered or intruded upon in their privacy.

Types Of Celebrity Rights

The rights which can be exercised by a celebrity include multi-dimensional rights. A broad classification of these rights may be as follows

  • PRIVACY RIGHTS- The mere fact that the celebrities are famous personalities and public is keen to know about even the slightest details of their lives, does not disentitle them from the enjoyment of their right to privacy like any normal citizen of the country. The Indian Courts on various occasions have upheld the view that Right to Privacy is available to the Citizens of India as an ingredient in Right to Life provided in Article 21 of the Constitution of India.2 The courts have expressly stated that "the right to privacy is implicit in the right to life and liberty guaranteed to the citizens of this country by Article 21. It is a "right to be let alone". A citizen has a right "to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, childbearing and education among other matters".3 In western countries the intrusion by press in the private life of celebrities (paparazzi)4 is often criticized on grounds of being invasive and intrusive merely for commercial purposes. While discussing the privacy rights of celebrities and famous personalities, the US Courts have stated that "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 hurt."5
  • PUBLICITY RIGHTS- The basic idea behind this right is that a person, who has put in capital and labor in building a repute and stature associated with his name, has the exclusive right of commercially exploiting it. It gives celebrities, the right of exclusive enjoyment and exploitation of anything that is associated with them and their personae. Apart from this, it also acts as a negative right of eliminating any kind of unauthorized use of their name and fame. Earlier, the performers and artists have the rights like right of voice; right to likeness (the right of limiting the public use of one's personality or anything associated with it) etc. but now with the development of technology, the visual and sound recording equipments are also causing great harm to the individuals. Such techniques have given birth to problems like "bootlegging". Bootlegging may be defined as an unauthorized recording of live performances. Further, lately there have also been various instances where the images, voices etc. of celebrities are copied and manipulated on various sites. With the advent of latest technology, it is now very easy to create a digital look alike of any person and manipulate it accordingly.This has been causing huge losses through defamation and confusion to the celebrities.

Publicity rights can be best illustrated through the case of Midler v Ford Motor Co & Others6. In this case the advertising company wanted to use a song which was in the voice of Bette Midler for the advertisement of the company, but Ms. Midler refused to give her version of song for the advertisement.The company then hired another singer to sing the song in a manner which was as much as possible similar to the Midler version. Ms Midler sued the company when the advertisement was aired. The court granted relief to the plaintiff saying that "publicity rights of people are their own property and is also one of the attributes of one's identity".

  • PERSONALITY RIGHTS- Belonging to the species of copyrights personality rights are also an outcome of the efforts and labor of an individual. Personality of a person is a unique and characteristic feature with the help of which an image of that person is created. The personality of a famous person also results in an obvious expectation in the minds of people towards that celebrity. It is often said that "An individual's property is the extension of his personality, similarly, an individual's contributions to the society are also an extension of his personality"7 Talking about the Indian scenario, there have been various cases where the celebrities have raised their voice against the unauthorized exploitation of their personality rights. One of the best examples of this may be the issuance of legal notices by the famous South Indian actor Rajnikanth before the release of his film "BABA" in all the leading newspapers. These notices prohibited any kind of use or imitation of his persona, dialogues, or of the character "BABA" for commercial gains by any means. The legendary actor Amitabh Bacchan also lodged a complaint against a Gutkha company who mimicked his voice for promoting and selling their products.


There may be many reasons for protecting celebrity rights like any other right. The few of them may be summed up as follows

  • The celebrity rights are assignable and licensable for commercial exploitation.These rights operate as an incentive and reward for the celebrities in return of their hard work, money and labor.Therefore, they should be given an exclusive right of enjoyment of such rights.
  • To prevent Bootlegging, so that the benefits are enjoyed by the rightful owners.
  • Celebrity rights are also inheritable i.e. the family members of celebrities can enjoy the profits associated with their names and popularity.
  • There are chances that there can be a situation of technological unemployment if the singers and performers are replaced by recorded music and visuals.
  • It also strengthens the small and trivial performers who cannot handle the situation on their own.

Protecting Legislations

  • TRADEMARK- Trademark law gives protection to the movie names, character names etc. this has two folded advantage. First, it enables the intention of the celebrity towards merchandising of his IP through assignment, licensing etc. Secondly, it also enables him to take an action against any other person who is trying to misuse the name or popularity owned by the celebrity.
  • COPYRIGHT- Although the Indian Copyright Law does not grants any protection to the name or image of a celebrity in India, the celebrities may protect their sketches, drawings etc. within the ambits of "artistic work" under the Copyrights Act. Movie names, characters, their names etc can also be protected.
  • PASSING OFF- Passing off actions are involved in cases where there is an unauthorized exploitation of a celebrity's fame and goodwill. Any person who is illegitimately using the reputation and name of another person is liable to be tried under the passing off remedy.
  • COMMON LAW- Apart from all these, a celebrity may also initiate actions under the Law of Torts for defamation and inappropriate use of his fame.


It can be safely concluded that when it comes to celebrity rights there is always a conflict between two fundamental rights i.e. Right to Privacy implied in Right to Life under Article 21 and Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. It is often argued that the general public is the source which makes these celebrities "celebrities" and therefore the press has been provided under Article 19 with the right of publishing information regarding them to the public. The Californian Celebrities Rights Act, 1985, the provisions under the Article 9 of the French Civil Code are some examples of fruitful legislations initiated by the nations for protection of these rights. India does not have any specific law in this regard. Hence, the onus lies on the law makers to bring efficient legislations which maintain a balance between the two Fundamental Rights and serve the dual purpose of protecting the rights of celebrities and also protecting the right of freedom of speech of the media.



2. Kharak Singh Vs State of UP & Ors. [1964] 1 S.C.R. 332--A.I.R. 1963 S.C. 1295

3. R.R. Gopal Vs. State of Tamil Nadu. JT 1994 (6) SC 514

4. "Paparazzi are independent photographers who take pictures of athletes, entertainers, politicians, and other celebrities, usually while they are going about normal life routines. They are unaffiliated with any main stream media."-

5. Barber v. Time, Inc., 159 S.W.2d 291 (Mo. 1942).

6. Midler v. Ford Motor Co. 1988, U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, 849.F.2d 460

7. Datta A, Celebrity Rights: A legal overview, http:// htm

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions