Olympus Has Risen: Adv. Anushree Rauta on IP and Celebrity Rights Management

Ritvik M. Kulkarni

On the 2nd day of the ILS IP Week, Advocate Ms. Anushree Rauta made a presentation on the Celebrity Rights in India. A former student of ILS Pune, Ms. Rauta is currently working as a Senior Associate with Naik, Naik and Co. The presentation mainly dealt with rights of celebrities as performers under copyright law and their contracts of service with producers and brand owners.

At the outset, Ms. Rauta dealt with the definition and concept of celebrity under the definition of a performer under the Copyright Act, 1957; which was followed by an exhaustive discussion on which celebrity performers (especially famous actors, artists and sportsmen) are entitled to receive royalty under Section 38(A) of the Act. She clarified that even though extras (such as junior artists) are in fact performers; they are legally (read contractually) excluded from claiming royalty under the Act.

Next in line was an interesting discussion on the contemporary issues in celebrity right management in India. This discussion was accompanied with important case law and other judicial and policy interpretations. It included the following:

  1. Whether payment of royalty and credit to a performer was limited to live performances
  2. Whether Performer’s Rights, like an artistic or literary copyright(s), under the Act are capable of being assigned to a third party
  3. Whether a claim on royalty under the Act is limited to films; or does it also extend to sound recordings.

Ms. Rauta explained that since there is no statutory rule or judicial precedent to that effect, contract clauses are tailor-made according to client preferences (i.e. celebrity or production house). Similarly clauses of brand endorsement contracts have to be drafted keeping in mind all the relevant factors such as the kind of products or services being advertised, the duration of the video and that of the overall advertising campaign, the characteristic features (such as voice, image, film, personality etc.) of the celebrity being used by the brand owners. Lastly, Ms. Rauta concluded with a discussion on the various possible methods of resolution of disputes in relation to such celebrity royalty or endorsement contracts.

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