Amitabh Bachan, one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, is threatening legal action over a tobacco advert that features a ‘sound alike’ of the actor promoting gutka, a mixture of chewing tobacco, crushed betel nuts and spices. Bachan, who says he does not smoke nor would he promote smoking, says the advert is unethical and paints him in a bad light and that he will ‘take steps to stop this illegal practice’ saying ‘manufacturers of products be it toothpaste or a car or a mobile spend huge amounts of money and time and management to build its brand value with certain credibility. For it then to be destroyed through unfair and illegal means is not acceptable. In the USA, image rights have been extended to include cover ‘look alikes’ (Onassis v Christian Dior) and even ‘sound alikes’ – the 1988 case of Bette Midler v Ford Motor Co found that hiring a sound alike vocalist to impersonate Bette Midler in an advertisement was “to impersonate her voice’ and thus was ‘ to pirate her identity’ just as Dior’s action in using a Christine Onassis look alike model had infringed her rights.
Bette Midler v Ford Motor Co (1988) 849 F 2d 460
Onassis v Christian Dior (1984) 472 NYS 2d 254