Amitabh Bachchan files suit in Delhi High Court seeking protection of his personality rights including name and voice
The suit has also sought a restraining order against book publishers, T-shirt vendors and various other businesses.
Veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan had moved the Delhi High Court seeking protection of his publicity rights including his name, image, voice or any of his characteristics without his consent.
According to the suit, Mr. Bachchan's name, image and voice were being misused in the fake Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) lottery scam and other online frauds. His voice and image were being used for frauds and illegal commercial use by mobile application developers who conduct lotteries by illegally associating with Kaun Banega Crorepati.
With respect to his name, the plea stated that Mr. 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.
The Delhi High Court today passed an interim order restraining persons at large from infringing the personality and publicity rights of veteran Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan. It was also noted that Mr. Bachchan is likely to suffer irreparable loss and harm, and that some of the activities may even bring him disrepute, if the order is not passed.
Justice Navin Chawla in his order said, "It cannot seriously be disputed that the plaintiff is a well-known personality and is also represented in various advertisements. The plaintiff is aggrieved by the defendants using his celebrity status to promote their own goods and services without his permission or authorization. Having considered the plaint, I am of the opinion that a prima facie case is made out and balance of convenience also lies in his favour."
The Court also issued directions to the authorities and telecom service providers on the prayers made in the suit.
The suit was filed by Anand and Naik. Senior Advocate Harish Salve, along with Advocates Ameet Naik, Pravin Anand and Madhu Gadodia appeared for Mr. Bachchan.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve stated that some advertisements were using Mr. Bachchan's name and also added there were complaints that such lottery advertisement were scams. He said, "I am just giving a flavour of what is going on. Someone is making t-shirts and started putting his face on them. Someone is selling his poster. Someone has gone and registered a domain name, amitabhbachchan.com. This is why we have come..."
It was also stated that only Mr. Bachchan has control over the commercial utilization of his personality, name, voice, image, likeness and other characteristics that are uniquely identifiable and associated with him, and no one can do the same without his consent or express authorisation.
"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.
Ameet Naik, Joint Managing Partner of Anand and Naik stated, "This landmark verdict will injuct any person from using the name, image, voice and other personality attributes of Mr. Bachchan without his consent and authorization by any means, physical or digital. The Indian jurisprudence will finally develop and evolve on personality rights and Mr. Amitabh Bachchan is the right personality to set this trend."
He further said "We are pleased that the Delhi High Court has presented this landmark verdict and am grateful to Mr. Salve and Mr. Praveen Anand for this trend setting order which will help talent in our country to protect their personality rights".
It was argued that over many years, Mr. Bachchan has built a reputed brand of himself, wherein the public associates both 'trust' and 'quality' with him and every brand that he endorses. It was further contended that only Mr. Bachchan has control over the commercial utilization of his personality, name, voice, image, likeness and other characteristics that are uniquely identifiable and associated with him, and no one can do the same without his consent or express authorisation.
The suit stated that defendants are operating websites and mobile apps by misappropriating Mr. Bachchan's photographs and/or other characteristics, to create popularity amongst the public and to entice members of the public to download such mobile apps.
The suit also said that defendant no 2 (one Rana Pratap) has been found circulating messages through WhatsApp in which messages and photographs of the Bollywood actor are illegally affixed along with an infringing text about KBC Lotteries. Another example of such infringement was, "The Defendant No.3 is a publisher, Manoj Publications, which has been found commercially dealing in a General Knowledge quiz book on various e-commerce platforms for aspirants who wish to participate in the television quiz show 'Kaun Banega Crorepati' (a popular TV show hosted by the Plaintiff). The Defendant No.4 is an entity M/s Swag Shirts, which has been found dealing in T-shirts through its website https://www.swagshirts99.com/, which prominently bear photographs of the Plaintiff on clothing items."
The plea also cited the example of a Gwalior-based poster seller who had been found dealing with wall posters bearing Mr. Bachchan's photographs and likeness.
Mr. Bachchan sought an interim injunction restraining four of the defendants from transferring, alienating or creating any third party rights in respect of the domain names amitabhbachchan.com and amitabhbachchan.in.
The Delhi High Court directed the Department of Telecommunications and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to pull down all links/websites provided in the plea that unlawfully infringe Bachchan's publicity rights.
"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 Court also 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.