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Delhi HC refuses Jackie Shroff interim relief against Youtuber 'UnfilteredThugesh' for using "Thug Life" in video on Shroff

By Shreya Agarwal      18 May, 2024 05:20 PM      0 Comments

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has refused Bollywood actor Jackie Shroff (@bindasbhidu on X) interim relief against Youtuber Mahesh Keshwala (@UnfilteredThugesh on YouTube) in his plea alleging personality rights infringement. The Court refused to accept Shroff's argument that Keshwala's video had tarnished his reputation by using the meme culture phrase ‘Thug Life’ in it. 

In his plea on personality rights' protection against various entities, the Delhi High Court took exception to Mahesh Keshwala's alleged infringing video against Shroff, stating that Shroff's “allegation that the video tarnishes his reputation requires further scrutiny”

Importantly, the single judge bench of Justice Sanjeev Narula also expressed its first opinion on the usage of "Thug Life" in the video curated by Keshwala. It said that prima facie, the phrase is infact “a compliment, and not derogatory”.

While Shroff contended that the phrase “Thug Life” mentioned in the said video is often associated with a rebellious or defiant attitude, the Court took the view that in terms of the contemporary meme culture, the phrase infact "embellishes the existing public perception of Mr. Shroff as a formidable and commendable figure." 

Shroff had in particular argued that the alterations and the incorporation of the term "Thug Life" not only misrepresents Shroff, but also "tarnishes his reputation significantly".

However, the Court said that the usage of 'thug life' and 'savage' in the video on Jackie Shroff did not tarnish his reputation in any way.

Besides, the Court also noted that the video by Mahesh @RealThugesh (on X) “has garnered substantial viewership on YouTube, underscoring its popularity as a humorous rendition of Mr. Shroff’s interviews” - almost 1.3 million views. 

The Court said that the specific video's "format, akin to a meme, spoof, or parody, is part of a burgeoning comedic genre that leverages the cultural resonance of public figures to create engaging content".

All praises for the "vibrant community" of Youtubers, the Court also held that such YouTube videos are not only a form of entertainment, but also a source of livelihood. 

It therefore cautioned that, “Restricting such creative expressions by enjoining Defendant No. 5 (Mahesh Keshwala) from producing similar videos or blocking these videos might have far-reaching consequences for this vibrant community.”

Such YouTube videos “require a form of artistic expression” requiring “thoughtful engagement” by the creator for content creation, and therefore stifling these voices through a legal order, would also amount to stifling the freedom of expression, the Court opined.

“These videos represent a form of artistic expression that requires creators to engage thoughtfully with their content. This involves researching target demographics, curating videos anticipated to resonate with audiences, and editing a diverse array of available content into a cohesive and entertaining package," it reasoned.

Noting that this “creative process can be seen as generating not only economic value but also employment opportunities” it refused to restrain Mahesh Keshwala from creation of such content using Jackie Shroff's old videos.

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A wanderer, aspiring yogini and writer. Shreya is a lawyer by profession, journalist by passion. A g...Read more


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