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Douglas, Zeta-Jones Fight for Damages Over Photos
Tue July 15, 2003 10:40 AM ET
By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Lawyers for Hollywood couple Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones return to London's High Court on Wednesday to fight for damages from celebrity magazine Hello!, which printed unauthorized photographs of their wedding.

In April, the glamorous pair won a legal battle against Hello! for publishing the unflattering pictures three days before official shots appeared in rival magazine OK!, which had signed a $1.6 million deal with the couple.

Zeta-Jones, 33, who won an Oscar for her supporting role in the film "Chicago," was horrified by the snatched snaps, some of which showed her being fed cake by her husband.

She told the court at the time: "I felt devastated...I felt violated. I did not want my husband shoving a spoon down my throat to be photographed...It is offensive."

The judge ruled that the photographs -- snatched by a member of the paparazzi who gatecrashed their wedding in New York in 2000 -- breached the couple's rights of confidence. But he rejected their claims for invasion of privacy and "aggravated and exemplary" damages.

The month-long case was seen as a landmark test of celebrity privacy rights but presiding judge John Lindsay left the issue of damages and costs until this week.

In a signal that the damages award may be significantly lower than couple might hope for, judge Lindsay noted that the couple's wedding had been a very public affair anyway.

"Given that there was in any event to be very extensive photographic coverage of the wedding...I do not see the behavior of Hello! as so flagrant or offensive as to justify an award of aggravated damages," he said.

Niri Shan, a partner and media law expert at the Taylor Wessing law firm in London, said: "I don't think the damages award is going to be as high as some people think. I think we're looking at tens of thousands, rather than hundreds of thousands."

The hearing is expected to last a week, but the decision will be reserved until a later stage, possibly the end of this month when the legal term ends.

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