Portrait rights of public figures

The Court of Appeal of Brussels has recently decided that the picture of the Red Devils, the Belgian national football team,
can be used on the cover of a book containing an overview
of the football season 2012 – 2013, without the consent
of the NPO Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA),
who administers and exploits the personality rights
of the Red Devils (including the portrait right).

The NPO RBFA had opposed against the use of the image of the Red Devils on the cover of the yearbook Football 2012-2013 since the publisher Van Halewyck did not ask for the permission of the NPO RBFA, let alone that it had entered into a license agreement for the use of the photograph.

As mentioned earlier on our website, the portrait right of a public figure is limited by the right of information, which is tied to the freedom of speech and the freedom of press. The image of a public figure can, without his consent, only be used for information purposes.

The informative content of the book, makes the picture of the Red Devils used on the cover informative as well. The rise of the Red Devils has been newsworthy during the season 2012-2013. Hence, the author, who is informing the public of these events, has to be able to illustrate the cover of his book with the image of the Red Devils.

It is important in this judgement that the Court stipulates that given that the publisher Van Halewyck has pursued profits by selling the book, does not prevent that the use of the picture of the Red Devils is informative and can therefore be used, without consent of the players concerned, nor the administrator of the personality rights of the players in question.

The Court decided as well that the variation in the book, between the overview of the football year 2012-2013 and interviews with people who have nothing to do with football, is not detrimental to the informative nature of the book. According to Court, the intention of the book is to inform the public.

The fact that the yearbook is truly informative and concerns a journalistic work, has apparently been a decisive factor.

21 March 2014

Griet Verfaillie - griet.verfaillie@peeters-law.be

Lees ook : Het recht op afbeelding en werknemers

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