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    Actor Jackie Shroff Petitions Delhi HC Against Misuse of Personality Traits Through Memes, GIFs, and AI: Here’s What the Suit Says

    After Anil Kapoor, actor Jackie Shroff has also approached the Delhi High Court seeking protection against unauthorised usage of his personality traits including name, voice, image, and other attributes, by firms, social media platforms and artificial intelligence applications, according to a report by Bar and Bench.

    According to the final suit, reviewed by MediaNama, the actor wishes to protect his names Jackie Shroff, Jackie, Jaggu Dada as well as Bhidu— widely used online for making references to the actor—and other elements of his persona from being unauthorizedly used for creating offensive and defamatory content, memes, pornographic material, unauthorised merchandises, and other malicious purposes.

    Shroff has sought a permanent injunction restraining entities and all other persons from infringing upon his personality rights by utilising (directly or indirectly) without consent, “exploiting or misappropriating” his name, voice, image or any other attribute “exclusively identifiable” with him, for commercial and personal gain in any format or medium including artificial intelligence. A permanent injunction is an order granted by the Court permanently prohibiting a defendant from carrying out an activity that may hurt the rights of the complainant.

    The plea has also sought an order directing the Department of Telecom and the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology to “pull down all links / websites” listed in the suit, which are said to unlawfully infringe the actor’s personality rights. Google-owned GIF search engine Tenor and Giphy and other AI platforms are parties to the suit.

    Key points from the suit:

    1. The lawsuit argues that given his celebrity status, Shroff is entitled to ‘Personality / Publicity Rights’ over all facets of his personality and enjoys “control over commercial utilisation” of such attributes. It stated that no one can “utilize and/or misappropriate and/or imitate” or commercially exploit these traits without his permission.

    2. As informed, Shroff’s personality rights–developed from the Right to Privacy–are protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, and Section 38, 38A and 38B of the Copyright Act 1957, which essentially grants authors and performers to claim authorship of their work.

    3. The complaint alleged that in addition to entities listed in the suit, unknown defendants or ‘John Does’ are also using the actor’s image, style and other infringing material on websites, social media platforms, YouTube, offline posters and advertisements, shops and hoardings, and other goods, including merchandise and clothing on e-commerce platforms.

    4. The allegations against the defendants include:

    • Unauthorised usage of the remark “Bhidu”, which the suit says is a registered Trademark of Shroff, as part of the name of a restaurant.
    • Using technology like AI for creation of images, fixing Shroff’s face onto videos, distorting facial expressions, overlaying profane audio clips to certain video clips of the Plaintiff, creating Al platforms which permit the creation of unlicensed chatbots, etc.
    • Manufacturing and selling products with the actor’s images, signature and other elements of his persona illegally to gain profits.
    • Using the actor’s name to host pornographic videos on their websites. “On account of the utilization of the name of the Plaintiff to host such obscene videos, the Plaintiff’s reputation, integrity and dignity are prejudicial to his honor and reputation and subjects the Plaintiff to humiliation for the sake of cheap humor, or by portraying the individual in an obscene setting,” the plea stated.
    • Using the actor’s name to list various ringtones or wallpapers to entice people to download such content from websites.

    5. In addition to listing platforms that are using AI-generated images of the actor, the suit also alleged that an entity has designed an Al platform by the name ‘KamotoAl’ which “enables users to create, train and monetise bespoke Al personalities”. It alleged that the platform hosts an unlicensed chatbot of Shroff, consisting an AI avatar of the actor.

    “Until there is regulation or law on the use and limitations of technology [generative AI, specifically], any unlawful appropriation of one’s IP needs to be eschewed under the tort of unfair competition and misappropriation for which there is abundance of precedent,” the plea noted in context of generative AI tools.

    6. It stated that unchecked use of these technologies lead to a confusion among the public making them wonder whether the actor has really endorsed/sponsored a product, may tarnish his reputation, and dilute the distinctiveness of the actor’s personality.

    7. The lawsuit noted that the “unauthorized dissemination” of illegal and infringing content not only undermines the actor’s rights, but also causes “grave economic and personal harm”.

    8. Stating that mere blocking of the rogue websites in question or social media profiles would be insufficient to protect the actor’s interest, the plea has also sought to implead “mirror/redirect/alphanumeric variations of the websites / social media profiles” in addition to those identified.

    Delhi HC’s order in Anil Kapoor’s case:

    In September 2023, the Delhi HC had passed an interim order prohibiting unauthorised use of actor Anil Kapoor’s name, voice, image, and other personality traits for commercial gains by various entities, including e-commerce companies, social media platforms, and the public at large. Interestingly, in view of the actor’s “personality rights”, Justice Pratibha M Singh also restrained the use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools for manipulating his pictures and using them for creating digital content like GIFs illegally for monetary gains.

    In addition to restricting the defendants from using the actor’s name, voice, image etc for commercial gains, the Court had also directed immediate blocking and suspension of the domain names involved in such actions, and that such links must be taken down by the internet service providers.

    The Court stated that while free speech rights in relation to satire, criticism and writings is protected, when the same “crosses the line” tarnishing or jeopardising an individual’s personality and “elements associated with the individual”, the same expression would be considered illegal.

    Why it matters:

    The arguments made by the Delhi HC in Anil Kapoor’s case shed light on the judiciary’s approach to cases involving content created using AI and their rising presence on the internet. More importantly, a series of personality rights cases raise a pertinent question: where does the line between legitimate use and copyright infringement blur? Can one pick a phrase of an actor’s dialogue for satire, or mimicry on social media without attracting legal troubles? Will usage of every dialogue or information relating to the actor’s personality anywhere on in the internet will then require authorisation from the actor? In November 2022, the Delhi HC had passed a similar order restricting the use of Amitabh Bachchan’s name, image, voice or any other characteristics” without his consent. The scope of such orders go beyond the entities in question, raising ambiguities about different aspects of celebrity rights in relation to their personality traits and works, especially in an AI age.

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    The post Actor Jackie Shroff Petitions Delhi HC Against Misuse of Personality Traits Through Memes, GIFs, and AI: Here’s What the Suit Says appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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