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Charles returns to fresh revelation

Current affairs television 'in sharp decline'

Centenarians lead march past Cenotaph

Cathedral in debt after millennium fiasco

Fantasy queen mistaken for Prophet's wife

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Mental health 'losing out' despite extra cash

'Ghost ships' in channel

Home ownership is key, says Milburn

Troublesome tales of a troubled valet

Countess and baby 'doing well'

In brief

Killer parents to lose legal letout

500,000 fine for private firm running schools

Parents searching for childcare 'still face postcode lottery'

Flanders' ghosts draw in ever more Britons

Horace brings war to life for new generation

3D specs help to unravel mysteries of paranoia

NHS Direct falls victim to its own popularity

The deregulating regulator

Saga of Brighton Pavilion

Culture of muddle hinders fight (part two)

Jurors trace girls' last steps


Hello! to pay 1m over Douglas wedding shots

Owen Bowcott
Saturday November 8, 2003
The Guardian


The celebrity magazine Hello! was yesterday ordered to pay more than £1m to the rival glossy OK! for publishing snatched paparazzi pictures of the wedding of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas.

The award for commercial damages because of lost sales, made by the high court in London, dwarfed the payments of £3,750 granted to each of the Hollywood actors for their hurt feelings.

The total bill for the trial, which Hello! may eventually have to pay, could be £5m. A further two-day hearing on the issue of costs has yet to be arranged.

The case, brought as a breach of commercial confidence, has been closely followed by media and lawyers monitoring the courts' approach to broader questions of invasion of privacy.

Mr Justice Lindsay said he "failed to understand" several of the Douglases claims. He almost cut in half the couple's estimate of the additional costs they had incurred and awarded them a "nominal" £50 each under the Data Protection Act. Altogether, the couple received a total of £14,600.

At an earlier hearing Alastair Wilson QC told the judge the Douglases were entitled to damages not only for the damage caused to their commercial rights but also for the distress they had suffered.

The judge agreed that any wedding was an exceptional event for bride and groom, and just because Douglas, 58, and Zeta-Jones, 33, were public figures it did not lessen their right to complain about intrusion. There was no doubt the couple had suffered distress, the judge added.

Lawyers acting for the couple yesterday welcomed the award as "a matter of principle" and said the actors would donate their damages to a charitable cause, the Family Learning Centre.

Most of yesterday's judgment, however, focused on the estimated loss incurred by OK!, which had agreed an exclusive contract with the Douglases to cover the ceremony at the Plaza Hotel in New York in November 2000.

The magazine's exclusive rights were undermined when an unauthorised photographer, Rupert Thorpe, bluffed his way into the reception and secretly took 15 or so pictures.

The snaps were subsequently sold to the magazine's rival Hello! for £125,000 and appeared on the same day as the edition of OK! which carried the official wedding photographs.

Handing down his judgment, Mr Justice Lindsay said: "Looking at this substantial award in a general way, I would not regard, given the resources of Hello!, as of a size that is likely materially to stifle free expression."

Outside the court Hello! admitted it was happy the awards to Douglas and Zeta-Jones proved the magazine had no intention of damaging the couple. It was, however, "disappointed at the awarding of £1,033,756" to its competitor.

"This is not and never was a privacy case," said Sally Cartwright, the magazine's publishing director.

"It is alarming to all print media that the financial consequences to Hello! of following normal practice of the UK media, namely running a spoiler, should be so great.

"The press as a whole are now on notice that whenever one media organisation has an exclusive, all others are at risk if they cover the same ground. This is potentially not only anti-competitive but also a restraint of freedom of expression."

A spokeswoman for OK!, which is owned by the Daily Express and soft porn publisher Richard Desmond, said: "Mr Justice Lindsay accepted the OK! claim for massive commercial losses because the publication by Hello! of the unauthorised pictures forced OK! to publish the Douglas wedding feature prematurely and very seriously damaged sales."

One media lawyer, Mark Batemen, last night suggested the small payments to the couple may have reflected that it was chiefly a commercial case or that the Douglases did not need the money. He said the judgment would not have much impact on questions of invasion of privacy since it did not open up an area in which celebrities could expect vast amounts of money.

Royal family
06.11.2003: Mail on Sunday battles injunction
06.11.2003: Palace case stays behind closed doors
05.11.2003: Guardian challenges court ban
05.11.2003: Guardian royal case to begin in private
04.11.2003: Former royal servant wins court ban on Guardian
04.11.2003: Guardian set to challenge injunction
03.11.2003: Injunction halts newspaper story on royals
24.10.2003: Diana crash photographers stand trial
03.09.2003: Mail angers palace with William stories
02.09.2003: Press promised greater access to prince
19.05.2003: Editor leaves after royal debacle
08.05.2003: 'Exclusive' Prince William interview scuppered
07.05.2003: Mirror attacks rivals over royal pictures

Privacy and the general public
06.11.2003: PCC receives Daily Record complaint
20.10.2003: Sun's anti-yob campaign raises 'lynch mob' fears
30.04.2003: New law could stop 'naming and shaming' by press
22.11.2002: Privacy law 'needed to protect public'

Privacy and celebrities
24.10.2003: Rigg backs calls for privacy law
20.10.2003: Rigg wins case against Associated
14.10.2003: Sun pays out over Kidman allegations
11.07.2003: Friends star wins topless damages
15.05.2003: McGregor blasts Heat 'intrusion'
02.05.2003: Fresh legal threat from Zeta Jones
28.04.2003: Express apologises to popstar
13.02.2003: Watchdog raps People over Goodyear photos
24.02.2003: Creek star lambasts press on privacy

Football rape allegations
09.10.2003: Papers name footballer but hide his face
03.10.2003: Police chief warns against 'trial by media'
01.10.2003: Battle to control media in soccer rape allegation
01.10.2003: Web gossipmonger warned over rape allegations

Comment and analysis
20.10.2003: Martin Soames: Are you worth it?
17.06.2003: Analysis: Human Rights Act boosts privacy law development

Calls for privacy law and PCC reform
23.10.2003: Football star Ferdinand on defensive from tabloid tactics
15.10.2003: Ministers reject call for privacy law
11.07.2003: Press complaints come under scrutiny
18.06.2003: Press body queries fines plan
17.06.2003: Labour MP rounds on media
17.06.2003: Privacy laws 'only protect the rich', editors insist
17.06.2003: MPs call for shake-up of media policing
17.06.2003: Report calls for fast-track for complaints
17.06.2003: The landmark cases, from football to film
16.06.2003: Editors back rejection of privacy law
16.06.2003: Government rejects call for privacy law
16.06.2003: MPs demand privacy law
17.06.2003: How the press reacted to the Commons inquiry

Sarah Cox legal victory
08.06.2003: Cox case is 'no reason for privacy laws'
07.06.2003: Radio 1 disc jockey wins privacy case
09.06.2003: Leader: Cox case is bad news for the PCC
24.01.2003: Cox wins injunction over French pictures

Douglas and Zeta Jones v Hello!
11.04.2003: Zeta Jones wins high court battle
11.04.2003: Full summary of judgment
11.04.2003: Case means end of road for spoilers
12.04.2003: Zeta Jones victory raises threat of privacy law
11.04.2003: How the Hello! spoiler went wrong
11.04.2003: Madonna's PR and Max Clifford on the Zeta Jones case
11.04.2003: OK! hails 'historic' victory

Mary Bell
15.04.2003: Bell and daughter 'must be protected from harassment'
15.04.2003: Mary Bell to get life anonymity
14.04.2003: Court hears Bell anonymity case

Gerhard Schroder
22.01.2003: Schröder wins latest privacy battle
20.01.2003: German chancellor in privacy battle with British tabloid
21.01.2003: Leader: The Hamburg muzzle

Naomi Campbell v Daily Mirror
15.10.2002: 'Weak' Campbell case offers no media safeguard, claims lawyer
14.10.2002: Campbell loses aggravated damages
14.10.2002: Campbell privacy case thrown out
14.10.2002: Campbell verdict allays fears of backdoor privacy law

MediaGuardian.co.uk special reports
Press and privacy
Media law




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