Jul 5, 2018

Random Musings On The Use Of Drones In Nigeria | Toju Dottie

More than ever, an in-depth and intricate study of the law is absolutely necessary given the rapid technological advancements being made around the world. The most recent wave that has hit Nigeria is the use of drones.

With the Christmas and New years holidays just recently observed, I attended quite a number of events hosted by friends. In the course of attending these events, I noticed the use of these peculiar-flying objects (which I have now come to know as drones) used by photographers to record and capture moments. 

Being a lawyer, I started wondering (some of these scenarios are a bit stretched but realistic) the likely legal issues that may arise with the improper use of this new technology. A few came to mind. 

Find below:

Invasion of Privacy / Confidentiality:  The use of camera fitted drones to film people  in certain situations or companies in business meetings where they believe or expect to have privacy. For example, a woman sun bathing in her backyard or people in a business meeting on company’s property strategizing- discussing certain confidential information as it relates to the business. Such  footage (video or photograph) if shared online can release trade secrets to competitors and ultimately violate one’s right to privacy.

 There is currently no comprehensive Privacy Act in Nigeria that sets out detailed provisions on the protection of the privacy of individuals and citizens, safe for section 37 of the Nigerian Constitution (1999) which provides that “the privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected” 

There is also no guideline that set outs the use of drones for recreational purposes; so it appears that there is no functional framework to balance the use of drones and the right to privacy.

An aggrieved party, in this instance might in the meantime make use of the Tortious Liability of Trespass and Nuisance. A trespass is any physical intrusion upon property owned by another. When considering these issues in the context of intrusions into airspace, the plaintiff must prove unwarranted interference with his land arising from intentional or negligent entry -in this case causing an object to intrude into the plaintiff’s airspace.

Nuisance is based on a property owner’s right to use and enjoy the land. A plaintiff in this regard must show that the object in airspace interfered with the use and enjoyment of his land and that the interference was unreasonable.

Copyright Issues: This occurs where a photographer( under pressure to please his client) hires a third party drone operator to take aerial photographs of the event and the third party operator uploads the pictures online to advertise his aerial photography services.

 In such a scenario, given the automatic ownership nature of copyrights, questions will arise as to who in fact owns copyright in the photographs or videos that have been captured. Infringement issues may also arise by using works from the footage captured by a person not the owner of the drones.

Patent & Design Issues- I will speak in this context in reference to the Nigerian Patent & Design registry. Usually protection for an invention such as the drone will be in functionality and shape of the drone. In Nigeria, Patent and Design examiners do not actually carry out the examination as to the substance of the application. Therefore, in an instance where there are two applications for drones, the patent examiner will approve both applications in respect of functionality (Patent) and Design (Shape) as the registry staff are not trained or experienced to examine a patent in respect of patentability or conformity with the law; thereby making patent granted under this system weak. This in itself, does not encourage creativity and innovation as manufacturers will not put in the work or make proper research (as obtains in other jurisdiction) to ensure that the equipment is improved as any patent /design application brought is not thoroughly examined but granted patent.

Cyber – Security: Drones are controlled my wifi radio signals; hence making it vulnerable to being manipulated by the operator who has access to the drone wifi network. Therefore the drone might be used in hacking, making unlawful interception and signal manipulation during flights all resulting to breach in security in cyber space.

 Terror Attacks-.Following the aforementioned cyber security issue, drones may be used to carry and disseminate bombs in public; thereby being used as an instrument to cause terror and mass destruction.

In conclusion, I strongly recommend a meticulous look at our laws, regulatory bodies vis a vis this new technology to adequately balance these innovations and the new problems it possesses.

Disclaimer: This article is only intended to provide general information on subject matter and does not itself create a client /attorney relationship between the reader and the author. Specialist legal advice should be sought about the readers specific case.

Toju Dottie

Senior Associate & Consultant

George Ikoli & Okagbue

Source: Linkedin