Image Rights, Privacy and Related Rights in the Workplace: High Court Case of Sikuku v. Uganda Baati

Circled: Sikuku, maybe.

Circled: Sikuku, maybe.

“The persons who created and did the video shooting or who employed the person who carried out the work of shooting the photos and video is/are the authors or author of the works. The exact relationship between an author and a person having neighbouring rights has to be clear and not hazy. A photographer who films activity in a market might not require permission of everybody in the market to publish or use the works.” – Madrama J. at page 15.

This blogger has come across a recent High Court decision of Sikuku v. Uganda Baati HCCS No. 0298 of 2012 before the very able Honourable Justice Mr. Christopher Madrama, whose decisions we have previously discussed here and here. A copy of the present judgment is available here. Sikuku, a long-time employee of Uganda Baati claimed that the latter was unfairly benefiting from the use of his images in Uganda Baati advertisements presented in both photographic and audio-visual forms to the public. Sikuku sought an order for the payment of Uganda shillings 150,000,000/= as “usage fees” from Uganda Baati. Sikuku contended that his employer had infringed his rights under the Uganda Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act as well as the Constitution of Uganda. The court dismissed Sikuku’s entire case against Uganda Baati. The learned Madrama J. found that Sikuku does not qualify to have neighbouring rights as protected by the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2006. Further, the court found that Sikuku has not proved unlawful interference with his constitutional right of privacy under article 27 by Uganda Baati.

This blogpost discusses the Uganda High Court’s treatment of the intersecting issues of image/privacy rights, and neighbouring rights as they arose in the Sikuku case. Ultimately, this blogpost finds that this case is instructive for participants both behind and infront of the camera lens.

It is not disputed that Sikuku appears in photos used in Uganda Baati’s in-house SAFAL magazine and the Contractors Year Planner. It is also not disputed that Sikuku appears on audiovisual adverts commissioned by Uganda Baati which were broadcast on several television stations including WBS and NTV. However the court had to determine whether or not these “appearances” amounted to “performances” as defined in copyright law and by extension, whether Sikuku fell within the definition of a “performer”.

A “performer” under section 2 of the Uganda Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act is defined to include an:

“actor or actress, singer, musician, dancer or other person who act, sing, deliver, declaim, play in, interpret, or otherwise perform literary or artistic works or expressions of folklore.”

Madrama J. in his judgment states that Sikuku cannot be a “performer” under the Act. His reasoning is thus:-

“The evidence demonstrates that the Plaintiff [Sikuku] was going about his business when he was filmed and photographed. He was not required to pose for the photograph or for the filming though they had been given new uniforms for the occasion. He was filmed and photographed in the ordinary course of his performance as a worker. (…) From the definition under the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act the Plaintiff is not an actor because he was filmed and photographed in the ordinary course of his work as an Employee of the Defendant. (…) the Plaintiff is not a performer whose action was deliberate so as to be a necessary ingredient of the works complained about and which ought to be paid in terms of performance fees (…) It is debatable whether the advertisement prominently portrays the Plaintiff’s photo or actually displays the Defendant’s products together and incidentally with the workers engaged in the work of production of the products using the machinery. The plaintiff is not at all the major or main feature of the advertisement. (…) The Plaintiff is not an artist and he was not bringing special skills so as to properly present the Defendant’s products. He was merely going about his business when he was filmed.”

On this point, this blogger concurs with the judge’s careful consideration of the definition of “performer”. Sikuku’s role in the audio-visual work cannot be likened to that of an extra in a movie or other production. While it is clear that Sikuku may fall within the category of “other person who acts, sings, delivers, declaims, plays in, interprets, or otherwise performs”, the missing part appears to be the subject matter of the “performance”. In the case of an extra, there is a script and an assigned role given to each “performer” such as “workman #1 operating heavy machine”, which would appear in the movie credits at the end of the movie.

On the issue of image/privacy rights, the court provides a useful analysis of the privacy clause in the Constitution of Uganda, which closely mirrors the privacy article in Kenya. In finding that there was no infringement of privacy rights, the court correctly reasoned as follows:-

“The court should consider whether photos of Employees taken in the course of their employment showing them at work cannot be used by the Employer for purposes of advertisement without consent or payment of consideration. The plaintiff should demonstrate that the filming or photo was taken in a private moment such us when eating or resting. Such a conclusion should be based on the terms of the contract. In the absence of the terms of any contract excluding an Employer from publishing photos and audio visual works of products including members of staff in a factory carrying out their work, the Plaintiff has no case presented before the court. As far as the rights to privacy is concerned, someone who works in a factory as contained in exhibit P1 and P2 cannot claim a right to privacy. The factory is owned by the Defendant and the Defendant can bring in people at any time to inspect the factory thereby excluding the rights to privacy.”

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QOTD: Do You Own the Rights to Artistic Works Purchased at the Maasai Market?

 

maasai-market-by-bulinya

The “Maasai market” (not represented here) is an open-air market where shoppers can find curios, paintings, drawings, clothes and fabrics with Kenyan prints, jewellery and wood-carvings, hand-made by local artisans. The venue for the Maasai Market rotates between different shopping centres and other locations within Nairobi. For tourists and locals alike, the prices at Maasai Market are very negotiable subject to one’s bargaining prowess and ability to haggle down to the last cent. No receipts are issued for purchases made at the Maasai Market nor should a purchaser expect any warranties or guarantees on items sold at the Maasai Market.

This leads us to our question of the day (QOTD) which is:

If someone buys a painting from an art gallery the Maasai market, do they simultaneously buy the copyright and all rights under that copyright? Can the artist subsequently make copies or postcards of the painting that he/she sold? Can the buyer make postcards of the painting and sell them?

From the explanations above, it is clear that all works sold at Maasai market are subject to copyright protection mainly under the category of artistic works. Further, it must be assumed that these artistic works are sold either by the authors themselves, authorised agents or representatives of the authors.

One possible answer to the QOTD would be in the affirmative on condition that the purchaser waits fifty years after the end of the year in which the author of the artistic work dies. In the event that the identity of the author is unknown (which may be the case with Maasai market works), the purchaser would have to wait 50 years from the end of the year in which the artistic work was first created/published.

However, this blogger submits that there is a better answer to the QOTD. In the context of a Maasai market purchase, it appears that that there is no clear assignment of copyright and exclusive license to carry out any of acts controlled by copyright, including reproduction, adaptation and making of derivative works i.e. post cards. This is because section 33(3) of the Copyright Act provides that such assignment of copyright and exclusive license must be in writing signed by or on behalf of the assignor or licensor of the Maasai market work, as the case may be.

Nonetheless, this blogger argues that the purchaser of a Maasai market work enjoys a non-exclusive license to do any act the doing of which is controlled by copyright. According to section 33(4) of the Act, this non-exclusive license need not be in writing and may be oral or inferred from conduct. The Act however provides that such non-exclusive license may be revocable at any time unless granted by contract.

Therefore, for any IP lawyer, the solution to the uncertainty in ownership of rights to Maasai market works may be resolved by simply having something in writing along the lines of:

“I,……the Author hereby irrevocably assigns, conveys and otherwise transfers to…… the Assignee, and its respective successors, licensees, and assigns, worldwide, all right, title and interest in and to the works, and all proprietary rights therein, including, without limitation, all copyrights, trademarks, patents, design rights, trade secret rights, economic rights, and all contract and licensing rights, and all claims and causes of action with respect to any of the foregoing, whether now known, or hereafter to become known.”

This may be food for thought next time you’re strolling past the Maasai market and something catches your eye.

How Laughter Works: XYZ Show, Parody and Intellectual Property Rights in Constitutional Kenya

XYZ SHOW BUNI TV

“A society that takes itself too seriously risks bottling up its tensions and treating every example of irreverence as a threat to its existence. Humour is one of the great solvents of democracy. It permits the ambiguities and contradictions of public life to be articulated in non-violent forms. It promotes diversity. It enables a multitude of discontents to be expressed in a myriad of spontaneous ways. It is an elixir of constitutional health.” – Justice Albie Sachs in Laugh It Off Promotions CC vs South African Breweries 2005 (8) BCLR 743 (CC)

A parody, also called burlesque, satire or spoof, in contemporary usage is a work created to mock, comment on, or poke fun at an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humourous, satiric or ironic imitation. Parody, as a method of criticism, has been a very popular means for authors, entertainers and advertisers to communicate a particular message or view to the public.

In recent times, the popularity of parodies has brought this creative form of expression in direct conflict with the owners of the original works protected under intellectual property (IP) law, particularly copyright and trademark.

Read the rest of this article over at the CIPIT Law Blog here.