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Friday, November 11th, 2022

Credit: wayhomestudio on Freepix

One of the major requirements for many businesses lies with advertising because advertising reminds your consumer or customer why they would choose you in the first place. Previously, advertising was limited to avenues such as billboards, television, radio, and newspaper Ads. However, with the expansion and innovation that comes with technology, a business is not limited to the traditional forms of marketing but is and should be open to avenues like digital and social media marketing. 

Digital marketing and images are like two peas in a pod. While it was easier to create and use images as one would like, currently the advertising world is met with a requirement to acquire image rights to legally advertise a business. In 2019, Sheila Gashumba was enraged in a bitter fight with La Paronis, a Kampala hangout for uploading her images on their social media without her permission. This will provide us with the background of our discussion today. What does our Ugandan law say about image rights?

Privacy is not an option, and it shouldn’t be the price we accept for just getting on the internet.

Gary Kovacs

 Image rights are the expression of a personality in the public domain. Under common law, a personality right is the right for an individual to control the commercial use of his or her image, likeness or another unequivocal likeness to their personality. Of course, most businesses use images of famous people to attract customers and the source of these images varies. Today, it is easy for a business to simply download images off the internet and yet one image can cause a lawsuit in an instant. In Uganda, the best case that represents this is the Winnie Asege Case. The plaintiff, in this case, was a successful commercial farmer in Soroti district and operated under Dakabela Rural Women Development Association. Opportunity Bank used her image on a huge billboard showing her heartily laughing and holding a bountiful harvest of oranges. The plaintiff brought a suit against the bank for breach of their constitutional right to privacy, misrepresentation, false endorsement, breach of confidence and unjust enrichment in the unauthorised use of her image. The image was used on flyers and brochures which were distributed nationwide. 

The issue at hand was whether the plaintiff’s image rights had been infringed upon by the defendant. The court resolved that for one to succeed in an action for infringement of image rights, such a person has to prove the following; 

i) That the plaintiff was identifiable 

ii) That the action of the defendant must be intentional and

iii) That the defendant must have acted for commercial gain. 

It is important that before a business uses someone’s image or any other image downloaded from the Internet, they must tick a few boxes such as:

  1. Written permission from the owner of the image is a major requirement. Written consent is important in circumstances where the other party tries to deny the agreement, in such a circumstance, there will be proof of authorization which would protect a business from a lawsuit. For online images, one still needs to seek the consent of the owner.
  1. Avoiding copyright violations is another way one can dodge the infringement of image rights. This is quite common on social media because it is easy to repost and share images. One must safeguard themselves before one uses someone’s images on their business website. The author of the image must be tagged as the content posted should be held by the individual who posted it. Currently, some sites provide free images and simply require that credit be given to the author. 
  1. Invasion of privacy is one of the key arguments for the infringement of image rights. This includes any circumstance in which someone’s personal information is shared publicly despite any legal protections. A business must avoid this at all times. In case a client sent you to feedback praising your product, and this feedback is publicly shared, this may amount to infringement. 

Uganda, however, does not possess any outright image rights laws, however, these rights are derived from other laws in order to protect person to person.