The Celebrity's Right to Autonomous Self-Definition and False Endorsements: Arguing the Case for a Right of Publicity in the Philippines

AuthorArvin Kristopher A. Razon
PositionBA Organizational Communication (magna cum laude), Juris Doctor (University of the Philippines), LLM (University of Melbourne); Lecturer, De La Salle University
A K A R*
With the Philipp ines being the to p country in te rms of social m edia usage, so cial
media platfor ms have expande d opportuni ties for celebr ities to prof‌it fro m their fame.
Despite the per vasiveness of celebrit y culture in the country an d the increasing number
of unauthori sed celebrit y advertise ments in such p latforms, th e right of publi city does
not explicitly exist i n Philippin e law. is pape r explains that the l ack of an explicit
statute-base d right of public ity does not mea n that it does not exis t in common law o r
other statutor y law. Centred on the mini malist path of law reform, the p aper argues that
the existing ri ght to privacy i n Philippine l aw can justif y a right to publicity, anchore d
on the right to prot ect unwarrant ed publicit y about oneself re gardless of one’s stat us
in the public eye , as well as on the r ight to autonom ous self-def‌ini tion. e ill ustrative
cases in this pa per evidence the hurt feeling s celebrities suer from un wanted publicity.
A publicity r ight also exists as a proper ty right under local intel lectual property laws o n
unfair competition.
I. Introduction
The opportu nity to economical ly exploit one’s name, likeness or ident ity, often
throug h celebrity en dorsements, is a per k that comes w ith being a cele brity.1 The
internet , part icularl y social med ia platform s like Facebo ok and Inst agra m, has
expanded t he opportu nities for celebr ities to pro f‌it from their f ame, provid ing
them with a nother channel by wh ich they can endorse bra nds to a global audience,
1 David Tan  e Commercial App ropriation of Fam e: A Cultural Crit ique of the Right of Pu blicity and
Passing O (Cambridge Un iversity Pr ess, Cambrid ge, 2017) at 1.
* BA Organ ization al Commu nication (m agna cu m laude), Juri s Doctor ( Universit y of the
Philippi nes), LLM (Univers ity of Melbourne); Le cturer, De La Sal le University. An e arlier draf t
of this a rticle was subm itted as pa rt of coursework u ndertaken for the L LM at Melbourne L aw
School, the U niversity of Mel bourne. The aut hor wishes to t hank Profess ors Megan Ric hardson
and David Ca udill for thei r valuable com ments and sug gestions.
66 [Vol 26, 2020]
without t he limit ations th at charac terise t radition al mass med ia chan nels. The
Philippi nes is perhaps one of t he ideal exa mples: it is the t op countr y in term s of
social med ia usage, and w ith Filipino s working in di erent places around t he world,
celebrity endor sements on social med ia can have a part icularly powerf ul eect.
The development of privacy l aw, consumer law a nd intelle ctual pr operty l aw
(areas of law t hat arguably int ersect with the r ight to privacy) i n the Philippines h as
left out any ex plicit reference to a right of publ icity. Considering the per vasiveness
of celebrity c ulture and popula rity of celebrity e ndorsements in the Phil ippines,2 it
is curious t hat the right of publicit y does not explicitly exi st in Phil ippine law. The
absence of rig ht of publicity c ases may perh aps be att ributed t o the Phil ippines’
collectivist cult ure,3 and, therefore, a hesit ation to bring such ca ses to court. I n any
case, the fa ilure t o do so represents a g ap in the Ph ilippine com mon law syst em,
made more appare nt by the increa sing num ber of unauthor ised adver tisements
involvin g Philippine celebri ties, as shown in th ree case studie s below.
The lack of an expl icit statute-base d right of publicity, however, does not mean
that agg rieved local celebr ities cannot rel y on another statut e or common law cause
of action in ca ses of unaut horised adver tisement s. The right of publ icity ha s been
def‌ined as, i n its simples t form, “the r ight to cont rol the commer cial use of one’s
perso na”;4 a comm entator expl ains t hat if th is is underst ood to be t he essence of
the right of pu blicity, “t hen Austra lian l aw oers its own ver sion by its laws on
copyrig ht, tradem ark, st atutor y misrepres entation, or pa ssing o ”.5 This paper
proceeds a long simi lar lin es of analy sis, and a rgues that Ph ilippine l aw oers its
own version of the r ight of publici ty: one th at may be developed fr om privacy tor t
and intel lectual proper ty law. The gap in an expl icit right of publicit y does not have
to be f‌ille d by inventin g new law. Instea d, this pa per explores the r ange of other
possible tech niques th at could argue a r ight of public ity by ma king ex isting l aws
adapt to a cha nging envir onment.6 The increment alist approach of t his paper alig ns
with the ide a that:7
2 Anna Cr istin a Pertier ra “In the Philippi nes, Celebri ty, Melodra ma and Nati onal Poli tics Are
Deeply Ent angled” The Conver sation (25 Janua ry 2017) .
3 Jenny Jea n Domino a nd Arv in Kri stopher Ra zon “Open Bo ok: An An alysis of t he Celebrity’s
Right t o Privacy” (201 4) 87(4) Phili p LJ 906 at 906.
4 George S mith II “The Ex tent of Protecti on of the Individua l’s Personalit y Against Com mercial
Use: Toward a New P roperty Ri ght” (2002) 54 S Ca l L Rev 1 at 4, as cited i n David Caudil l “Once
More into t he Breach: Contra sting US a nd Austral ian Right s of Publicit y” (2004) 9 MAL R 263, at
5 Smith, abov e n 4.
6 Megan R ichardson “Res ponsive Law Reform: A C ase Study in Pri vacy and the Media” (2 013) (1)
EJLR 20 at 2 4.
7 At 24.

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