Image Rights In Sports Law?

INTRODUCTION

The commercialization of sports has included a number of legal concerns. Currently, there are several sponsors for a single sporting event, players are contractually required to support a certain company, and broadcasting organisations have exclusive rights over what content is shown to viewers. Therefore, it is almost hard to imagine sports in the modern digital age without intellectual property rights. In addition to playing a crucial part in the promotion of sporting events, IPRs are required for the maintenance and monetization of the precious image rights of athletes.

[Image Source: Istock]

One of the most disruptive political, social, and technological eras is currently taking place in the world, and this is having an impact on how investments are made in sports, how sports content is created and distributed, and how rights holders, sponsors, and fans interact with one another. Because of technology, viewers now anticipate having access to content anytime they want it and from any location, including live streaming, on-demand coverage, and supplementary information and commentary. Over-the-top live content for sports is on the way thanks to participation from established broadcasters, more recent digital publishers, rights holders, telecom firms, social media platforms, and industry titans. Therefore, they become a popular location for large corporations to market and sell their goods, generating profits that are beyond comprehension.

However, are all the rights covered under law. Are the same used in the manner required to be used or is there an infringement on the part of the users of the rights of others. Moreover, is Indian law clear on this aspect. This article intends to answer all of these questions.

ANALYSIS

1. The Use of Image Rights in the Commercialized Sports Era
A person’s name, likeness, autograph, story, and accomplishments (including copyright and other intellectual property) may be used in connection with filming, television, broadcasting, audio recording, motion pictures, videos, electronic pictures, still photographs, personal appearances, product endorsements, and advertising across all media with the permission of the person in question.

Personality merchandising is the practise of connecting a wide range of goods and services with a well-known person in order to increase the marketability of such goods and services. When a celebrity participates in the practise of personality marketing, he or she authorises the use of their persona in connection with certain goods or services in order to enhance the perception of those goods or services among the general public. The word “persona” refers to the elements or characteristics that make up a person’s external existence and are used by others to identify them. A person’s name, shortened name, nickname, alias, signature, image, voice, likeness, look-alike, caricature, physical traits, acting style, mannerism, gestures, unique appearance, characteristic words, characteristic clothes, etc. are examples of these aspects or qualities.

In the case of Mr. Gautam Gambhir vs D.A.P & Co. & Anr. , the defendant operated their bar and restaurant under the name Gautam Gambhir, which many people believed to be associated with the aforementioned well-known personality. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the defendant. The defendant contended that he wanted to do business under the name Gautam Gambhir as he also goes by that name. Additionally, he did not even assert that the cricketer and the bar are related or display any of the cricketer’s pictures in public. He, further, displayed his own photographs everywhere as identification. The logos of the restaurants were also registered. Evidently, it was found that the defendant had not utilised the reputation associated with the plaintiff’s name in his trade. The temporary injunction was therefore rejected.

It is evident that, in this instance, there was no malafide intention to use the name, image and good will of the personality mentioned, nor was there any intention to create (or) cause confusion in the minds of the people, the judgment was very much apt. However, a point for consideration is the absence of law on such issues.

CONCLUSION

Personality Rights and Sponsorships: A Relationship
Sportspeople have passionate supporters, thus their reputation is valuable. This intangible worth is based on the notion that a player’s endorsement raises consumer knowledge of and favorability for the brand. The club has separate sponsorship agreements with the players. Athletes promote products by leveraging their skill, persona, and performance.

A sportsperson’s publicity or image rights provide him the ability to use and profit from his famous status for business purposes. The marketability of an athlete is determined by his personality and physical traits, and his image rights are derived from his physical characteristics, which include his appearance, demeanour, and voice. An athlete’s endorsement increases a product’s marketability and authority. A personality may only file a lawsuit if reproduction or use of a resemblance violates a legal right they have since, like the UK, India lacks clear legislation protecting personality rights per se. These image rights may be protected under i) the Indian Constitution’s Article 21, ii) the Advertising Standards Codes, iii) the Trademark Act, and iv) Passing Off.

Author: Pragati Gilda, a Student at NMIMS Kirit. P. Mehta School of Law, in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email to chhavi@khuranaandkhurana.com or at  Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorney.

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