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We were right to publish Zeta wedding shots

Dec 14 2004

By Stephen Howard, Daily Post


THE row over photos of Welsh actress Catherine Zeta Jones' wedding to Hollywood star Michael Douglas landed back in court yesterday.

Three Appeal Court judges are being asked to rule on £1m-plus damages celebrity magazine Hello! must pay its rival, OK!, over the paparazzi pictures.

It admitted the snatched photos were a "spoiler" to lessen the impact of OK! magazine's exclusive £1m contract with the couple to cover the New York ceremony.

James Price QC, representing Hello!, said spoilers were a well-known media tactic, and his clients had been victims in the past.

The ruling against Hello! came after a six-week High Court hearing last year.

Mr Justice Lindsay ruled Hello! had breached the couple's rights of confidence but the stars had no claim in law for invasion of privacy.

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

Mr Price said the word "spoiler" was a misnomer judging from the evidence given at the High Court hearing.

"One can get a promotional boost from very obviously inferior pictures of an event in a competing publication," said Mr Price.

He said when two daily newspapers ran spoilers on OK! magazine's exclusive coverage of David Beckham's wed-ding, it was found the unofficial pictures actually boosted sales for OK! by encouraging interest in the story.

Mr Price told Lord Phillips, Master of the Rolls, and Lords Justices Clark and Neuberger that Mr Justice Lindsay

found the Hello! Douglas wedding edition cost OK! 1.4m lost sales.

But the High Court judge also accepted a spoiler could have the effect of increasing the sales of a magazine with an exclusive contract, said Mr Price.

Unless the judge had taken into account the impact of unauthorised pictures of the Douglas wedding published in two daily newspapers, then the judge's finding was "manifestly unsustainable", he said.

Mr Price said Hello! was challenging the finding of liability and the amount of the damages award to OK!

If he was successful in his appeal that the High Court was wrong to find there had been a breach of commercial confidence, then the damages award to the Hollywood couple would also fall away.

OK! is challenging an order it was entitled to only 75% of its legal costs against Hello!

The hearing, scheduled to last up to five days, resumes today.


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