Three Moi University alumni have sued the Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) for publishing their photos on its graduation booklet without their consent.
The three, Nawal Ali, Abad Elkindiy and Fatima Athman accused TUM of publishing their images on 14 July 2022 with a caption ‘congratulations class of 2021’.
According to the aggrieved graduates, the university distributed the booklets within Mombasa County to advertise TUM’s graduation.
In court papers, the students argued that the institution had violated their right to privacy.
“The petitioners right have been trampled on by the respondents degrading act of publishing their graduation photo or image without their knowledge or consent,” the petition read.
Furthermore, the students’ petition revealed that the institution had portrayed them as students who had attended TUM, yet they had never been there.
“The petitioners averred that the said reckless and malicious publication, the respondent portrayed the petitioners as having attended the institution, a fact it knew to be false,” the petition stated.
Moreover, the High Court on 16 August 2022, while sitting in Machakos Justice M.W. Muigai set a precedent after delivering a landmark ruling prohibiting universities and other institutions of higher learning from using students’ photos to market their academic activities.
The judge ruled that using the photos without their consent was unlawful and a violation and infringement of their rights.
Also Read: Ruto Brings Back University Bridging Courses
Previous Court Cases
In Machakos University a former student was awarded Ksh.700,000 for use of her image in an advertisement without consent.
Justice Margaret Waringa sitting at the High Court in Machakos declared that the university violated her fundamental right to privacy and human dignity when it used Catherine Njeri’s image in a commercial advertisement.
Njeri, in a petition, claimed the motive was for the university to get more students to partake in the said courses offered at the university at Ksh.7,000.
“On April 10, 2021, the petitioner (Njeri) discovered that her photograph had been used by the respondent (university) in advertising and marketing courses it offered,” read part of the petition.
Additionally, she alleged that her image was taken by an unauthorized servant, agent, and or employee of the university without her knowledge.
She argued that the University violated her right to privacy and not to be held in slavery or servitude when it published her photo for the school’s commercial gain with no financial advantage gained by her.
Catherine added that her intellectual property rights were also violated by the same publication.
Machakos University, in its reply, admitted to having used the image. However, the institution said that since it is partly public-funded, it does not engage in commercial or profit-oriented activities.
It further alleged that the photos on the website portrayed Njeri in a positive manner because she is a graduate of the University.
UoN alumni sued Kabianga University
Consequently, a former student of the University of Nairobi (UoN) sued Kabianga University for using his graduation photo without his consent and was awarded Ksh.500,000.
The Kericho High Court Judge found that the university violated the student’s rights to privacy and human dignity by publishing his image without his express consent.
“Judgment be and is hereby entered in favor of the petitioner against the respondent in the sum of Ksh.500,000 plus costs and interest at court rates from the date of this judgment until payment in full,” the ruling read in part.
In addition, the judge ordered the university to meet the lawsuit’s litigation costs. It also issued orders barring the institution from using his photo without express content.
The former student, who graduated in December 2019, moved to court after discovering Kabianga University used his graduation photo on its website in 2020.
According to the petitioner, the respondent used his image and person to market a joint programme with a multi-national bank, which he argued commercially benefited the institution.
In submissions to the court, he claimed that using the photo caused him irreversible suffering as he was linked to the institution.
“The petitioner avers that the respondent’s action has subjected him to psychological torture because society, peers, associates, family, business partners and affiliates perceive him to have graduated from the University of Kabianga…
…thus, concluding that he had been untruthful of his academic credentials from the University of Nairobi and that unless his prayers are granted, he will continue to suffer the complained violations in a manner that cannot be compensated by way of damages,” the court documents read in part.