ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Exploiting the Cache of Fame

The legal concept of “publicity rights,” which protect a person from the unauthorised commercial exploitation of indicia of identity, is still nascent in India.

Imagine one day, while casually browsing the internet, you chance upon your face in the next viral meme. Before you know it, you are internationally famous—or, rather, infamous—and your face is being sold on coffee mugs and t-shirts the world over. People are monetising your face and your idiosyncrasies, and you wonder whether you have a say in the matter; after all, no one even sought your permission.

Your plight is not different from that of Taylor Swift or the other celebrities whose likeness is depicted in Kanye West’s video entitled Famous, which has sent the world into a tizzy. While Kanye comments on the voyeurism and objectification that celebrities are prey to, he too indulges in that which he decries, by exploiting the celebrity status of the likes of Taylor Swift and Donald Trump to sell his song. Kanye threw down the gauntlet by tweeting: “Can someone sue me already#I’llwait.”

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