Review Of Some Legal Issues Arising From The Use Of Celebrity Images For Commercial Purposes In Nig


Tuesday, June 18, 2019    /   06:15PM   /   By Oluwafunmilayo Mayowa / Header Image Credit: SPA Ajibade & Co.


1. Introduction

Celebrities often have two streams of income, one for the work they are known for (like acting, singing, dancing, stand-up comedies etc.) and the other, from endorsement deals and sponsorships. This second and, often, more important stream of income derives from the "image" and personality that these celebrities have built over time. For example, David Beckham's estimated earnings as at 2009 from endorsements and advertisements alone is stated to have exceeded his earnings from playing football.1 These unique characteristics such as the appearance, voice, use of certain catchphrases etc., make up a celebrity's image, and this image most times compel their fans and followers to patronize products and services to which they are associated. These intangible proprietary rights are very essential to celebrities, as research has proven that it contributes to the bulk of celebrity income.2


2. What Is Image Right?

Image rights (also known as the right of publicity in the United States) refer to a person's right to commercialize aspects of his/her personality such as physical appearance, pictures or caricatures, signature, voice, personal logos and slogans, and the right to prevent other people from commercially making use of them without authorization.3 It is simply the right of a person to control the public commercial exploitation of his or her identity.


Image rights are equivalent to property rights. The very notion that property rights can vest in an individual's personality imply conversely that attributes of that personality cannot be appropriated without prior permission, as with other kinds of property rights.4 It is important to note that "it is celebrities who have mostly instituted and won image rights cases".5 This is not to suggest that persons who are not celebrities have no image rights; however, one will find that the ability of a claimant to adequately demonstrate the enjoyment of goodwill or considerable influence might be factors to be considered in any image rights action.6


To show Infringement of image rights, a plaintiff must prove: (1) Validity - that the plaintiff owns an enforceable right in the identity or persona of a human being; and (2) infringement - (a) that the defendant, without permission, has used some aspect of the plaintiff's identity or persona in such a way that the plaintiff is identifiable from the defendant's use; and (b) that defendant's use is likely to cause damage to the commercial value of that persona.7



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  1. (2018) "Personality Rights" available at essays/criminology/ personality - rights.php accessed on 20th May 2019.
  2. Samantha Leal, (2015), "Here's How Celebrities REALLY Make Their Money" available at on 29th April 2019.
  3. See Section 32-36-1-7 of the Indiana Code - Right of Publicity statute. See also Prince Alex-Iwu, (2017) "Photo Privacy & Media/Image Rights in Nigeria" available at http://barcode. accessed on 23rd April 2019.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Prince Alex-Iwu, (2016) ´'The Legal Regime for the Enforcement of Image Rights - A Nigerian Question" available at ENFORCEMENT_OF_ IMAGE_RIGHTS_-A_NIGERIAN_QUESTION accessed on 13th April 2019.
  6. Ibid.
  7. S. Hines and C. Steiner (2012) "Life After Death- Right of Publicity Law" available at  accessed on 25th April 2019.


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.



The article Nigeria: A Review Of Some Legal Issues Arising From The Use Of Celebrity Images For Commercial Purposes In Nigeria first appeared in Mondaq on Monday, June 17, 2019. Article by Oluwafunmilayo Mayowa, NYSC Intern, Intellectual Property Department of S.P.A. Ajibade & Co. Lagos, Nigeria. 


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