The Delhi High Court, on Wednesday, issued an interim John Doe order, restraining social media platforms, e-commerce websites, and the public at large from infringing upon the personality and publicity rights of the renowned actor, Anil Kapoor.
Under this order, unauthorized platforms are prohibited from using Anil Kapoor’s name, voice, image, or dialogues for commercial purposes in an illegal manner. Justice Prathiba M Singh, presiding over the case, also ordered a ban on the use of artificial intelligence tools to manipulate his image and the creation of GIFs for monetary gains or any commercial activities that may violate Kapoor’s rights.
Furthermore, the Court ordered the immediate suspension and blocking of domains like http://Anilkapoor.com. Additionally, the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) was directed to issue a blocking order concerning pornographic content featuring morphed images of the actor.
The legal proceedings originated from a suit filed by Anil Kapoor, expressing concern about the misuse of artificial intelligence to harm his hard-earned goodwill and reputation. Kapoor sought to prevent the unauthorized use of his name, acronym “AK,” voice, image, as well as his various sobriquets, such as Lakhan, Mr. India, Majnu Bhai, Nayak, and the phrase “Jhakaas,” without his consent.
He also requested measures to halt the unauthorized sale and distribution of products like keychains and t-shirts, along with audio-visual content such as images, GIFs, and videos, without proper authorization.
The Court firmly asserted, “This court has no issues in holding that his (Anil Kapoor’s) name, persona, and likeness have to be protected not only for his own sake but for the sake of his family who do not want to see his name being used for tarnishing and negative use… The plaintiff has made out a prima facie case in his favor.”
Justice Singh emphasized that while freedom of speech is protected in various forms such as write-ups, news, satire, criticism, and parody that are genuine, it should not be allowed to tarnish an individual’s personality. She stated, “When the same crosses the line and results in tarnishment, blackening, or jeopardizing the individual’s personality and associated elements, the same would be illegal.”
The Court also highlighted the need to protect celebrities’ rights to endorsements, recognizing them as a vital source of livelihood that should not be undermined by illegal merchandise.
Regarding the misuse of artificial intelligence to distort Kapoor’s image, the Court noted, “The celebrity also enjoys the right to privacy and does not wish that his image, voice, and likeness are portrayed in a negative manner, as is being done on porn websites. Using the plaintiff’s image with other actresses is not only harmful to the plaintiff but also to third parties. The Court cannot turn a blind eye to this.”
Anil Kapoor’s counsel, Advocate Pravin Anand, argued that protection was being sought for Kapoor’s image and his iconic “Jhakaas” dialogue. Anand also pointed out the sale of merchandise referencing Anil Kapoor without his consent, including claims that he could be hired as a motivational speaker.
Initially, the Court raised reservations about protecting the term “Jhakaas,” suggesting that it might be a variation of Bambaiyya Hindi. However, Anand clarified that it pertained to how Kapoor uniquely delivered the phrase. The Court also questioned whether such protection should be extended to other celebrities, to which Anand responded that it should, particularly in cases of shaming or unauthorized use for explicit content.
The suit was filed through Anand & Naik, with advocates Ameet Naik, Pravin Anand, Madhu Gadodia, Dhruv Anand, and Abha Shah representing Anil Kapoor.
Last November, a similar interim order was issued by the High Court in a case involving veteran Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan, restraining the public from infringing upon his personality and publicity rights.