What Anil Kapoor's Personality Rights Protection Means For Mimicry Artists, Lookalikes

The Delhi High Court recently granted the Bollywood actor legal protection for his publicity and personality rights.

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The Delhi High Court recently granted Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor legal protection for his publicity and personality rights, including his distinctive way of saying 'Jhakaas'.

However, this also brings up concerns about the rights of mimicry artists, or those who create art inspired by celebrities, lookalikes who perform as celebrities at events, and artists in the AI field.

Kapoor was worried that AI misuse could harm his reputation and be used to make money from his image. Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan had also won similar protection from the court earlier.

Challenge AI Poses To Celebrities

According to Pravin Anand, managing partner at Anand and Anand, an IP law firm, artificial intelligence has catalysed the misuse of celebrities’ personas for personal profit and fraud using deepfakes and generative AI.

Deepfakes are used to depict actors as the opposite sex, leading to ridicule and profit for the creators. These videos garner thousands of views, benefiting those who produce them. This technology is also exploited to create fake explicit content featuring famous personalities.

On the other hand, generative AI uses a celebrity's images, voice, and likeness without their consent to generate content. This content is then posted online, amassing millions of views for profit.

AI tools can fabricate private events or conversations, breaching a celebrity’s privacy, according to Bharadwaj Jaishankar, partner at IndusLaw. A notable concern is the creation of content mirroring a celebrity's style, like music evocative of Taylor Swift, Jaishankar said.

Anupam Shukla, partner at Pioneer Legal, said, "AI technology is being used to impersonate celebrities on social media and in interviews, while also surveilling them to collect information about their activities and invade their privacy."

The use of an individual’s persona is not lawful or fair in certain cases, Anand said. These include falsely claiming that a celebrity is endorsing a product, distortion of persona to create sensational, humorous, or obscene content, and distributing free merchandise, taking endorsement opportunities away from the celebrity, he said.

Impact On Mimicry Artist, Lookalikes

The law allows for the use of someone's image or likeness in specific situations such as freedom of expression, fair usage, and minimal use, Anand said.

It also allows for freedom of expression that respects an individual's reputation and avoids offense. Fair dealing or usage provisions in copyright law permit the use of a celebrity's image for news reporting, factual events, non-paying performances, or religious ceremonies.

De-minimis, or minimal use, is when minor or insignificant elements of a celebrity's persona are copied and don't violate personality rights or copyright.

Artists in remote areas who imitate or create art inspired by celebrities won't have legal issues, as this falls under minimal use, according to Anand.

However, those looking to make a living from this should get permission from celebrities through a licence. Until they have such a licence, artists should give credit to the original celebrity and make it clear that the celebrity hasn't endorsed their work, he explained.

Another such exception, according to Jaishankar, is the doctrine of transformative work—that adds new expression or meaning to the original or if it provides a new purpose.

A caricature or mimicry of a celebrity might exaggerate certain features for comedic or critical effect, thereby transforming the original likeness.
Bharadwaj Jaishankar, Partner, INDUSLAW

Protection of personality and publicity rights in India can benefit both original copyright holders and performing artists, according to Amit Panigrahi, partner at Luthra and Luthra Law Offices. It safeguards their image and prevents misuse or misrepresentation, providing a balance that protects their livelihoods, he said.

Impact On AI Artists

Even in the field of artificial intelligence, artists will have to adhere to copyright laws and balance their freedom of expression and creativity so that their rights are not violated, according to legal experts.

Principles of transformative work or fair use would apply to artists in the AI space as well, Jaishankar said. Hence, balancing the rights of celebrities to protect their likeness and artists who draw inspiration from them is essential, he said.

Celebrities have a right to control their image but artists can contribute to culture and artistic expression when their work is transformative and non-exploitative, he said.

Anand agrees.

Other artists are still free to use a known and reputed individual’s persona and exercise their freedom of expression, so long as they do not bring disrepute to the individual.
Pravin Anand, Managing Partner, Anand and Anand