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Drone Laws – Part IV

In the future, drones may be a commonplace since businesses are using drones for commercial purposes, and individuals are flying drones as a hobby. You may wonder about your privacy with all those eyes in the sky. Drones that can go about, without giving you a way to stop them. As shooting a drone out of the sky is generally frowned upon, what could you do to protect your privacy and your legal rights? With all that information on drones, what you can do, where you can fly, what about the laws that protect you from drones? What protects your privacy? What protects your business?

How to protect your privacy from drones?

In protecting privacy, there are a few aspects that have been mentioned earlier.  Namely the FAA requirements to register and display a drone’s registration. Following that, it is encouraged to report any improper use of a drone. Given that a drone’s registration number must be on the drone, it does mean if a drone is infringing on your privacy, then you can report it to local law enforcement agencies.

What happens after law enforcement discovers who owns the drone? Well, this would mostly be the simple tort of “invasion of privacy.” This tort would essentially punish actions that serve to intrude on areas of the home, which may remain private, such as the second story of a home, or, in some cases, a backyard. However, this may not necessarily extend to other, more public places.  Also, as a tort, the definition may vary from state to state. However, for those in California, Civil Code Section 1708.8 was amended to clarify and serve as protection for celebrities, including, entering airspace above another person’s property without permission to capture visual images, sound recordings, or impressions of the person in his/her private life to a point where it would offend a reasonable person. While this may have been focused towards celebrities, in particular, it would allow any person, with the right facts or evidence, to seek damages for the misconduct, while also potentially hitting the intruder with a fine of $5,000 to $50,000.

How to protect your business from improper drone flights?

Truthfully, this is an aspect of the law that is far more limited.  There are fewer ways to prevent drones from effectively flying over and taking information about one’s business. Aside from taking measures to effectively shield crucial information from competitors by keeping it away from prying eyes, there lies the possibility of trade secret law, and the idea of “improper means.” Even then, the information would have to qualify as an actual “secret.” In essence, much like DuPont v. Christopher, where improper means were established when the Christopher brothers had flown above a plant under construction to take photographs for a client seeking information on DuPont’s trade secrets. This was primarily because there was no good way to prevent such an event from happening, as it would have been prohibitively expensive to build a roof over an unfinished plant to prevent their questionable actions.

If you have questions about your privacy rights, or what protections your business may have against drones, you may contact us to set up an initial consultation. At our law firm, we assist clients with legal issues related to business, technology, and e-commerce transactions.