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As we all know, we live in a global society that more than ever is obsessed by celebrity status. Footballers, pop stars, actors and other celebrities have the potential to use their images for commercial purposes and to continue to generate an income from them long after they have given up their ‘day jobs’. These images need protection just as any other valuable property does.
Until now, the main way to protect the intellectual property associated with an individual has been through the use of trademark, copyright and design right law as well as privacy, passing off and defamation laws. However these traditional rights and laws do not specifically address the global protection of a celebrity’s image in the 21st Century. The government of the British Channel Island of Guernsey realised that there was no globally recognised regime for the registration and enforcement of image rights and introduced the world’s first register of image rights by enacting The Image Rights (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Ordinance 2012, (the ‘Ordinance’), at the end of 2012. By registering a personality right and associated image rights on the register a person, group or company is asserting its right to an individual personality and to control how its associated images are published.
We expect the Ordinance will have significant impact upon the commercial opportunities available for the exploitation through licensing of broadcast or internet publication of images associated with registered personalities.
The Ordinance allows individuals and other entities, as described below, to register their personalities in Guernsey and the holder of a personality right is known as the ‘personnage’, a term reflecting the Anglo-Norman history of Guernsey. A personality can only be registered if the personnage belongs to one of the following categories:
A natural person – an individual who is alive, or has died within the 100 years preceding the date of application for registration.
A legal person – a company or other body having a legal personality which is in existence, or was in existence within the 100 years preceding the application for registration.
A joint personality – two or more natural or legal persons who are, or who are publicly perceived to be, intrinsically linked together, a good example of which is a comedy duo.
A group – two or more natural or legal persons who are, or who are publically perceived to be, linked in a common purpose and who together form a collective group. An example of a group is a football team – all the members may change over time, but the team itself remains intact.
A human or non-human fictional character.
The Ordinance recognises the personality right and image right as a property right.
Registration of a personality also brings with it the protection of moral rights, classically the right to be identified and to prevent derogatory treatment of the personnage. Moral rights are assignable except on death and are only conferred on natural persons.
The personnage need not in any way be connected to Guernsey but in all cases must be legally entitled to exploit the personality. In the case of fictional characters it will usually be the creator who owns such rights.
For more information on Image Right, please contact our Team and we will put you in touch with one of our External Advisors.