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Using another’s image, and most especially a private image, without consent is prima facie impermissible, unlawful and entirely illegal: Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court held that a person’s image cannot be used for a commercial purpose, without his/her express written consent through Justice G.S. Patel in the case of Sakshi Malik v. Venkateshwara Creations Pvt Ltd (COMMERCIAL IP SUIT (L) NO. 3510 OF 2021) WITH (INTERIM APPLICATION (L) NO. 3514 OF 2021)

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The suit sought monetary damages for defamation as well as a permanent injunction.

Plaintiff worked as a model and actor. The issue at hand is the first and second defendants’ completely illegal use of a still image of the plaintiff in their 2020 Telugu film named ‘V.’ The aforementioned film is accessible on Amazon Prime. Plaintiff commissioned a photographer to construct a picture portfolio as part of her professional employment 5 years ago. The photographs were shared with the plaintiff via a Google link or on Instagram, and the plaintiff then published at least a portion of this photo portfolio to her Instagram account.

The complaint is that an image from the above-mentioned privately commissioned portfolio was used in a scene in the first and second defendants’ film where there is a reference to a female escort or a commercial sex worker. What is displayed in the film is a message on a smartphone screen with a picture; and the image utilized is one from the Plaintiff’s portfolio, evidently copied from her Instagram account.

As a result, counsel for the lawsuit has claimed that the plaintiff’s image was improperly utilized in the film to portray her as an escort or commercial sex worker. As a result, the plaintiff claimed that the foregoing constitutes defamation.

JUDGEMENT:

After reviewing the foregoing, the High Court concluded that plaintiff’s counsel’s averments were accurate. In addition to the foregoing, Bench claimed that any rational motion picture producer would have insisted on seeing agreement or authorization from the model or person depicted or to be featured. The court ordered defendant 3 to stop airing the video in all forms, regardless of language or sub-titles, until the first and second defendants totally removed all pictures of the Plaintiff from their work.

Simply pixelating or blurring the photographs will not suffice. The plaintiff’s photograph and the entire sequence must be deleted immediately. If the first and second defendants want to recreate the deleted parts, they can do so, but they must not use any of the Plaintiff’s photographs in any way, fashion, or form without her express written approval.

Furthermore, the Bench added to its list of orders that the 1st and 2nd Defendants are prohibited from publishing their video on any media platform, through any medium, or in any format until the deletions mentioned above are implemented. Similarly, the 3rd Defendant is not permitted to distribute any re-edited version of the film without a particular direction from this Court following the deletion of the infringing segment.

JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY REETI SHETTY

Click here to view judgement

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