Many times talented people and public figures find themselves in scandals that can really damage their reputation in the eyes of the public. However a price comes with being a celebrity and that is, part of you is owned by the public.  There is a branch of law that is known as personality rights law and there are several countries with a specific law on personality rights.  In Kenya there is not yet a specific law on personality rights but it is possible to protect your personality through several other laws. Businesses also have personality rights to some extent and should also aim at protecting them.


One of the personality rights that someone has is protection from unauthorized appropriation of their personality. Unfortunately many people appropriate other people’s personalities in a damaging way. In Kenya it is a crime to pretend to be another person for gain. There is also a civil law aspect. For example many times businesses may use unauthorized endorsement of a product by a celebrity so as to boost sales. Other times businesses may misrepresent their client lists so as to boost their profile. All this is part of the breach of personality rights that every business and individual is entitled to. While there is no specific personality rights law, one can claim damages under civil law. The damages depend on the repute of that person. In Canada’s law, personality rights can be breached by unlawful use of one’s photograph or voice especially in advertisements.


Part 2 of the Constitution lists some of what can be considered to be personality rights. These include the right to human dignity and the right of privacy.


Defamation laws also protect one’s personality and are available to every person. Therefore if someone else unlawfully and illegally attacks your personality then you can recover damages under civil law. You can recover damages from anyone that attacks your profession, trade or calling. If somebody falsely attacks your professional ability and that causes injury then you can recover damages. The thing is that the attack must be false and must also cause damage. Women can recover damages when other people make false allegations about their chastity. Many times women have been slandered even on social media. A few weeks ago I was reading of a story of a young lady of about 18 who went through a lot of cyber bullying when a blogger alleged that she was loose. If the allegations are false, this lady can recover a lot of damages from the blogger as Section 4 of the Defamation Act specifically provides for a recourse when a woman is slandered falsely.


There are many ways for a business to protect its personality and it all comes down to strategy. A business can decide to carry out strategic litigation against businesses or people who infringe on their personality rights, for example filing infringement suits. I know a company that seems to have taken this strategy where it has filed several law suits worldwide against other businesses that infringe on their name. The message that is being sent out, is do not tamper with our personality rights. Some celebrities have also taken this approach of filing law suits against people who tamper with their personality rights sending out a very strong message that do not mess with their name or reputation. It seems that this is the only way in Kenya one can protect their personality and it is more of a reactive measure than a preventive one. You cannot stop people from defaming you but you can sure make them pay for that and send out a strong message in the public that nobody tampers with your rights and gets away with it.

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