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Press Association
Thu 9 Dec 2004
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4:13pm (UK)
Hello! Plans Appeal over Zeta Jones Photo Case

By Stephen Howard, PA

Hello! is to appeal over its courtroom clash with Hollywood couple Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas which left the celebrity magazine with a bill for millions of pounds.

The six-week hearing last year over snatched pictures of the couple’s New York wedding became one of the most publicised cases heard at the High Court in London.

Zeta Jones, 34, told how she had felt “devastated, shocked and appalled” when she realised that paparazzi had gatecrashed her wedding at the Plaza Hotel in November 2000.

She and her 59-year-old husband had signed an exclusive £1 million deal with OK! magazine for pictures after turning down a higher offer from Hello!

Zeta Jones said she felt “violated” when Hello! published unauthorised photographs, which she claimed were “sleazy and unflattering”.

Mr Justice Lindsay ruled that Hello! had breached the couple’s rights of confidence but they had no claim in law of an invasion of privacy.

He awarded the couple a total of £14,600 but OK! won £1,033,156 for what the judge said was commercial damage to its expected exclusive coverage.

Hello!’ solicitor Chris Hutchings said today the magazine was appealing on Monday against both liability and the damages award to their rival, OK!

The judge had effectively ruled that the contract which existed between the Douglases and OK! was similar to a trade secret.

He said Hello! was arguing at the appeal that the coverage was a “spoiler”, a media ploy to lessen the impact of any rival’s exclusive coverage.

“This was a spoiler, no different to any other spoiler in the past or since. Hello! has been subject to many spoilers, including ones from OK!”

He said Hello! was not challenging the award made to the Douglases but the damages to OK! were “far too high”.

Mr Hutchings said OK! would also be seeking to appeal against an order that they would get only 75% of their costs of the case.

Lawyers have estimated that the total legal fees for the various parties in the case could amount to as much as £4 million so far.

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