The Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday directed makers of a Telugu film to withdraw the film from all viewing platforms till they deleted a portion of the film where a photograph of a model and actor was shown as that of a commercial sex worker.
The directions were issued after the actor approached the HC seeking damages for defamation from the filmmakers for using her photograph without her permission and in a derogatory manner. The court also directed Amazon Prime to withdraw the film from its portal till the objectionable scene was deleted and the court’s permission was taken for re-releasing the film.
A single bench of justice GS Patel, while hearing an interim application in a commercial suit filed by actor Sakshi Malik, was informed by advocates Alankar Kirpekar and Saveena Bedi that while a suit was filed against Venkateswara Creations Pvt Ltd for claiming damages in defamation, the application sought removal of the objectionable scene wherein Malik’s photograph was used without her permission and in a derogatory manner.
Kirpekar informed the court that in 2017 the actor commissioned a photographer to make her portfolio after making a mark for herself in Bollywood through songs and movies. The photographer had shared the portfolio with Malik, following which she uploaded some of the photographs on her social media account.
The advocates informed the court that a Telugu film released in September 2020 contained a scene showing the photograph of the actor from the portfolio on a mobile screen depicting her as a commercial sex worker. Kirpekar submitted that it was violation of the actor’s privacy and that it was an unauthorised use of private material. He further claimed the nature in which it was used was derogatory. In light of these submissions, Kirpekar sought directions to the filmmakers to delete the scene.
The filmmakers represented by advocate Akash Menon, however, informed the court that they had got the photograph from a commercial agency for the scene and it was used only after they were assured that the same could be used legitimately.
While agreeing with Kirpekar, justice Patel said, “It seems to me self-evident that it is not possible to use the image of any person for a commercial purpose without express written consent. If images are to be used without such express consent, they must be covered by some sort of legally enforceable and tenable licensing regime, whether with or without royalty. Simply using another’s image, and most especially a private image, without consent is prima facie impermissible, unlawful and entirely illegal.”
While directing Amazon Prime, India to stop telecasting the film, the court directed the filmmakers to take down the film from all viewing portals and to delete the entire scene and get an approval from the court before releasing it again. “The entire sequence which has the image of the Plaintiff is to be removed immediately. If the 1st and 2nd Defendants (filmmakers) wish to replace the deleted segments, they are free to do so but without using any of the Plaintiff’s images in any shape, fashion or form without her express written consent. The 3rd Defendant (Amazon) will have 24 hours to discontinue the availability of the film.”