Let’s have a brie look at the Ethiopian law of privacy of the person. The right to privacy is one of the human rights that are stipulated in the Ethiopian constitution. In principle, as illustrated under sub article 1 of article 26, “every one has the right to privacy and not to be subjected to search of his home, person or seizure of any property under his personal possession”. In addition to this, sub article 2 of Article 26 further provides the right to the inviolability of notes, postal letters and communications made by means of telephone telecommunications and electronic devices. But the question is to what extent the law protects our privacy right regarding this sub (3) of article (26) left a duty on the public officials to respect and protect these rights.

Even if the law grant a wide range of right to privacy there is still an exception on the enjoyment of such rights in same circumstances. These could be the safeguarding of national security or pubic peace, the prevention of crimes or the protection of health, public morality or the rights and freedoms of others. Therefore the right of privacy is always under exceptional grounds.


The civil code on Article (27) as a principle states that “The photograph or the image of a person may not be exhibited in a public place nor reproduced nor offered for sale without the consent of such person”. In connection with this, Article 28 of the Ethiopian civil code provides an exception. The content of this article has different interpretations because of it’s generalization of the definition.

Article (28) “The consent of the person concerned shall not be required where the reproduction of his image is justified by the notoriety of such person or by the public office which he occupied or by the requirements of justice or of the police or by a scientific cultural or didactic interest or where the reproduction of the image is made in connection with facts, events or ceremonies of public interest or which have taken place in public.”

Notoriety of a person

“The consent of the person concerned shall not be required where the reproduction of his image is justified by the ‘notoriety of such person’”. Regarding this statement a question may be raised to what extent a person is famous to be considered as a well known person or should a person have to get approval by official statement. Therefore it’s difficult to know whether a person is famous or not.

For e.g. is it possible to distribute a talented carpenter picture who is living in a certain village?

Scientific, Cultural and Didactic Interest

1. Scientific Art

Regarding scientific art it’s a vast area related with creativity. For e.g. offering for sale by modifying or editing the picture of a person with different style could be considered as an art.

2. Cultural interest

Economic, social, cultural and political factors could be the means for development. For instance a picture of a person may reflect cultural development through his /her hair style and way of dressing so that it could be offer for sale.

3. Didactic interest

Educational staff are different upon the understanding of the student and viewers for e.g. if we assume a picture of a person is well sufficient to reflect the stone age period we can attach the picture in the history book to make the period more understandable.

Compensation and Sanction

There are two kind of remedies stipulated in the copy right proclamation. These are civil and criminal remedies.

Civil remedies

The owner of copyright may claim for the making good of the unjust enrichment. Even though the amount of compensation for moral damage shall be determined based on the extent of the damage, it however cannot be less than Ethiopian birr 100,000.00.

Criminal remedies

The penal code penalty extends from five to ten years of imprisonment. However if it is committed by negligence it could be as little as one to five year years of imprisonment.


Even if the right to privacy is stipulated in the constitution and civil code there are some exceptions to this right. Because of its generality the extent of privacy is ambiguous. Therefore a person can only take an action of the reproduction of an image if it doesn’t fall within the meaning of Article 28, as discussed above.

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Any pertinent information on the subject can be available from an Ethiopian Lawyer, Ethiopian Intellectual Property lawyer, Ethiopian Copyright lawyer, Ethiopian Contract Lawyer, Ethiopian Criminal Lawyer, Ethiopian Lawyer and Ethiopian Family Lawyer.