Machakos University to pay student Ksh700,000 for using her graduation photos without her consent

It is illegal for universities to use the images of students and graduates in marketing their academic activities, the High Court of Kenya has ruled.

In the landmark ruling, Ms Catherine Njeri Wanjiru sued Machakos University in October 2021 and petitioned Machakos University which had violated her rights to privacy and human dignity when it published her photos for the purpose of commercial advertisement without her consent.

Ms Wanjiru based her argument on Articles 28 and 31 of the constitution “by publishing her image and likeness for its own commercial gain with no personal financial advantage that she gained.”

“A declaration be issued that the petitioner’s intellectual property rights, right of publicity and personality rights was infringed when the respondent decided to publish the petitioner’s image in advertising and marketing the computer packages courses offered for financial gain without seeking authority from the petitioner,” court documents read in part.

She also wanted the court to ensure that Machakos University does not publish any of her images without her consent.

Ms Njeri also wanted to be compensated by the university for damages and any loss that might have taken place after her image was used in marketing.

According to the court documents, the petitioner on April 10, 2021, discovered a picture depicting her being used by the respondent in advertising and marketing the computer packages that it offers.

“On conducting a further online search she discovered the public commercial posts and advertisements that were made by the Respondent using her photographs. They were also on its website advertising the list of computer packages courses being offered at Sh7,000,” the petition further read.

She further argued that the images were taken by an unauthorized servant or employee of the university without her consent or knowledge.

According to her, the main objective of the image was to yield more profits in terms of the many applicants who were being targeted for the said course.

It is then that she went ahead and reached out to the university seeking an explanation as to why it was using her image to advertise and promote its computer packages and in response, the respondent said it would place her in front of the other alumnus.

In her petition, Ms Njeri said that the use of the image has seen people assume that she was in a working partnership with the university as its brand ambassador which was not the case.

In the orders, Judge M. W. Muigai said that indeed the intellectual property rights, right of publicity and personal rights were infringed when the Respondent decided to publish her image in the advertising and marketing of computer packages course offered for financial gain without seeking her consent.

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