Intellectual property rights of Celebrities

Amitabh Bachchan filed a petition with the high court alleging that individuals were using his name, voice, and image without his consent to advertise their products and services, ranging from T-shirts and posters to lotteries and video call applications. In response to the Amitabh Bachchan petition On Friday, the Delhi High Court issued an interim injunction prohibiting several individuals from intruding on Amitabh Bachchan's "publicity rights" as a celebrity. The high court further ordered the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the Department of Telecommunications to take down any links or websites provided in the plea that infringed Bachchan's publicity rights.

According to the plea, Bachchan has "personality/publicity/celebrity rights" over every aspect of his personality because he is a famous person. The plea argues that the plaintiff (Bachchan) has control over the commercial exploitation of his personality, name, voice, image, likeness, and other traits that are specifically recognisable and linked to the plaintiff.

The plea further claims that "no one" is allowed to use, misappropriate, imitate, or use any aspect 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) for commercial gain in any way without the consent and/or express authorization of the plaintiff. Plea Contends that Bachchan's name, voice, appearance in pictures and other media, likeness, and distinctive dialogue style are all protected aspects of his personality.

Can a Celebrity have the IPR of his Name, Voice, and Image?

Time by time, celebrities have expressed their desire to get the Intellectual Property Right of their voice to prohibit its unauthorised and unwanted use for commercial gain. Amitabh Bachchan attempted to obtain a copyright for his well-known voice in 2010 after it was claimed that a tobacco manufacturer used his impersonated voice to advertise his product. Not only Bachchan but also celebrities like Sunny Deol have approached for the copyright of their voice to prevent its illicit and unauthorized use. However, the question remains whether they can copyright their voice and images. The short answer is "No". Let's understand why as per Section 14 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, copyright is an exclusive right to do or authorise someone to do the following activities concerning the works as specified in Section 13 of the Act. Under Section 13 of the Copyright Act of 1957, all creative works, including books, music, plays, visual arts, sound recordings, and motion pictures, are protected by copyright. The Act protects literary creations like books, manuscripts, poetry, and theses. It also protects original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, as well as motion pictures and sound recordings, from unauthorized access.

Intellectual property rights of Celebrities

Under the Copyright Act, voice cannot be a subject of copyright in and of itself. Only musical, artistic, dramatic, or literary works, as well as cinematographic films and records, are permitted copyright under Section 13. A celebrity's voice does not, by any stretch of the imagination, fit into any of these categories. As long as the voice is a part of the tangible medium, it may be possible to copyright a song, an advertisement, or a movie. However, voice is not specifically covered by copyright protection. Additionally, since voice is not a mark as defined by the Trademarks Act of 1999, it is not possible to register a trademark for it. Mark is constantly connected to a good or service. Amitabh Bachchan is neither a product nor a service in this case. He is merely using his voice to promote a good or service.

In the case of Name, From Section 13 of the Indian Copyright Act 1957, it is clear that the Name per se cannot be something in which copyright subsists. However, if their name has taken on a secondary meaning, celebrities may be granted trademark protection for it. When a purported mark "has become associated in the minds of consumers with a specific source, it acquires secondary meaning. When a famous person registers a trademark for his or her name, it does not mean they can prohibit others from using the name in connection with any products or services. The only thing it means is that they can stop other people from using the trademark with the categories of goods and services for which they have registered the trademark.

However, in the case of Image, it is mentioned in Section 17 of the Indian Copyright Act 1957 the copyright of a photograph shall vest with the photographer who is also considered as the author of the work under Section 2(d)(iv). This gives the photographer nearly unrestricted rights, including the ability to share the photograph with the public, reproduce it in any material form or store it on any medium, distribute copies of the image, or transfer the copyright to another individual.

Personality rights of Celebrities

As the term "celebrity" is not used anywhere in Indian acts, the term "performer" is defined in Section 2(qq) of the Copyright Act of 1957. It says all artists who perform are "performers". There are some personality rights, also known as celebrity rights, that allow for the protection of a celebrity's character traits. These rights acknowledge the celebrity's long-earned reputation and protect against its unauthorised use for commercial gain. The Act's Sections 38, 38A, and 38B deal with the Performer's Rights, Exclusive Rights of the Performers, and Moral Rights of the Performers, respectively. Therefore, any unauthorised use of a celebrity's protected personality traits will be a punishable offence.

Therefore, it can be considered a celebrity's personality right is protected by copyright legislation. However, there was a counterargument that if copyright were obtained on celebrity personality traits, it would be unlawful to imitate their voice, mannerisms, or other identifying characteristics. Therefore, copyright protection must be limited to any unauthorised use of photographs, voice imitations, or any other personal traits for monetary gain,, and must include provisions for damages against such use and libel against the celebrity.


Given their reputation and level of popularity, celebrities' voices, names, images, and other personal characteristics are undoubtedly very important. However, the laws relating to intellectual property that are currently in effect do not protect these personality rights per se, at least not to the extent that they are incorporated into cinematograph films, as these are not the kinds of works in which copyright can exist according to the applicable laws. Nevertheless, because they are famous people's publicity or personality rights, they may be protected by the Act's relevant provisions in the form of the performers' moral rights, also known as their celebrity or personality rights. If any of these characteristics, such as voice, name, image, etc., are used by another person for commercial gain without the prior consent of the celebrity in question, it may result in legal action being taken against that person for violating the "Personal rights" of that celebrity.

Author : Aryan Raj, in case of any query, contact us at Global Patent Filing or write back us via email at

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