Student Who Sued University Over Image Wins Ksh 500K

Graduands attend a graduation ceremony organised by a Kenyan University.
Graduands attend a graduation ceremony organised by a Kenyan University.

A former student of the University of Nairobi (UoN) who sued Kabianga University for using his graduation photo without his consent was awarded Ksh500,000.

In court documents seen by 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.

The judge also ruled that the petitioner's intellectual property rights were infringed and thus was entitled to the amount in damages he demanded.

Ruto Graduation
President William Ruto (Centre) with other graduands during the ceremony at the University of Nairobi on December 21, 2018
Daily Nation

"Judgment be and is hereby entered in favour of the petitioner against the respondent in the sum of Ksh500,000 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 his graduation photo was used on Kabianga University's 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 benefitted 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 the 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.

The determination of the matter was guided by a ruling made by a Machakos High Court that prevented academic institutions from using students' photos for commercial marketing.

Delivered by Justice M. W Muigai in August 2022, the court explained that using the photos without their consent was unlawful and a violation and infringement of their rights.

University of Kabianga academic block
University of Kabianga academic block