Indian actor Anil Kapoor has won a significant victory in a New Delhi court over unauthorized use of his image by AI.
Kapoor, who has appeared in dozens of hit Bollywood films as well as the Oscar-winning English-language drama series Slumdog Millionaire, was granted an interim injunction against 16 defendants, with the court ordered that they are “prohibited from using in any manner whatsoever Anil Kapoor’s name, likeness, likeness, voice or any other aspect of his personality to create merchandise, ringtones…whether either for monetary or other gain.”
Kapoor told Variety: “I think (the decision) is very progressive and great not only for me but also for other stakeholders… Because of the way AI technology is evolving every day.”
This court decision comes at a crucial moment in the fight between American writers and actors unions and organizations representing the studios. A key point of contention between Sag-Aftra and the studios concerns the use of AI to profit off an actor’s likeness in perpetuity, without approval or residuals.
Kapoor expressed solidarity with striking actors in the US and hopes they will welcome his victory as “big, positive news”.
“I am still completely with them in every way, and I think their rights should be protected, because everyone, big, small, popular or not, every actor has the right to protect themselves,” Kapoor said.
The actor took his case to the Indian High Court in response to the large number of distorted videos, gifs and emojis featuring him. He was also concerned about the use of his catchphrase, “jhakaas”, first used in the 1985 film Yudh, which roughly translates to “great”. All are now protected by court decision.
“It’s not just for me,” Kapoor said. “Today I am here to protect myself, but when I am not there, the family should have the right to protect my (personality) and benefit from it in the future.”
The ethics of digitally recreating deceased actors was highlighted by the on-screen resurrection of the late actor Peter Cushing in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in 2017. Cushing’s estate approved the work done to bring back the actor on the big screen.
Speaking to the Guardian in March, actor Michael Douglas said he was considering licensing his name and likeness “so the rights go to my family rather than the metaverse.”
He continued: “It’s only a matter of time before you can recreate any deceased person, at any age, with their voice and their mannerisms, so I want to have some control.”