May 18 (Bloomberg) -- Celebrity magazine Hello! won its appeal
of a decision ordering it to pay 1 million pounds ($1.8 million) to
rival OK! for publishing ``spoiler'' photos of the 2000 wedding of
film stars Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
The U.K. Court of Appeal today overturned a lower court ruling
awarding OK the sum as damages for lost sales of its own wedding
issue of the couple. Hello admitted it printed the pictures, taken
in secret by a photographer who gate-crashed the ceremony, to
reduce the impact of OK's exclusive contract with the pair.
``OK! Has failed to establish that Hello! had the requisite
intention to establish the tort of unlawful interference with
business,'' Lord Justice Nicholas Phillips said in the judgment.
Today's decision may affect the development of privacy rights
in Britain, where tabloid newspapers and magazines are filled daily
with photos of professional athletes and movie stars, often taken
without their consent, according to media lawyers including Dan
Tench, a partner at London-based law firm Olswangs. Both U.K. and
European courts have recently bolstered the right of celebrities to
protect their private lives.
Zeta-Jones, 35, whose hit films include ``Chicago'' and
``Traffic,'' and Douglas, 60, had signed a 1 million-pound contract
with OK to snap their November 2000 wedding day at New York's Plaza
Hotel. Paparazzi photographer Rupert Thorpe sold six grainy images
of the ceremony, taken with a hidden camera, to Hello for 125,000
The court upheld a 14,500-pound damages award to Zeta-Jones
and Douglas for breach of the couple's right to confidence, but
dismissed their appeal for a higher sum.
Zeta-Jones testified at the lower court trial that she felt
``devastated, shocked and appalled'' when she found out about the
photographs. She and her husband, who starred in ``Wall Street,''
had asked the court to award a total of 500,000 pounds for
commercial damages and 50,000 pounds each for ``distress.''
Lawyers for Hello argued at the December appeal court hearing
that the Douglases surrendered their privacy rights when they
agreed to sell their wedding photos. They also claimed tabloids had
to publish ``spoilers'' to succeed in a competitive industry.
Both magazines publish photographs and stories about
celebrities and European royals. OK is owned by the British
entrepreneur Richard Desmond, who also publishes the country's
Express newspapers. Hello is owned by Hola SA of Spain, which is
controlled by Eduardo Sanchez Junco.
The case is A3/2004/0330 Douglas & ors v. Hello Ltd & ors.