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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
& 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.
– 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.
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.
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.
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
George Ikoli & Okagbue