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Hello! wins Zeta Jones court battle

May 18 2005

icWales

 

Hello! magazine today claimed victory in its epic court battle over the wedding pictures of Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas.

The Court of Appeal allowed its challenge to a High Court order that it should pay more than £1 million damages and another £1 million in legal costs to rival magazine OK!, which had an exclusive contract with the Hollywood couple to cover their New York wedding.

Hello!'s appeal against the ruling in favour of the Hollywood couple over privacy and commercial confidence was dismissed.

But the appeal judges also threw out the couple's claim for more damages and OK!'s cross appeal based on unlawful interference with business.

Lord Phillips, giving the ruling of the appeal court, said Hello!'s argument at the appeal was that once the Douglases had committed themselves by the OK! contract to publishing photographs of their wedding, it was no longer possible for them to advance a claim that events at their wedding were private or confidential.

The judge said: "It is quite wrong to suppose that a person who authorises publication of selected personal photographs taken on a private occasion, will not reasonably feel distress at the publication of unauthorised photographs taken on the same occasion."

The judge said the objection to such photos was not only that they convey secret information or unflattering impressions, they disclose information which is private.

But he said that when an individual authorises pictures to be taken on a private occasion and then makes them public, the potential for distress at the publication of unauthorised photographs was reduced and this should be reflected in any amount of damages.

Lord Phillips said that this did not provide a defence to a claim brought under the law of confidence.

He said the appeal court had recognised that the Douglases did have a right of privacy or confidentiality in the details of their wedding which were not portrayed by the official photographs.

"These photographs (unauthorised) invaded the area of privacy which the Douglases had chosen to retain.
"It was the Douglases, not OK!, who had the right to protect this area of privacy or confidentiality."

He said this was why the appeal court had reached the conclusion that High Court judge was wrong to hold that OK! had any right to commercial confidence.

Media lawyer Mark Stephens said later: "Scoops are the life-blood of a vibrant media and the Court of Appeal has effectively removed the ability of news organisations to keep the vibrancy of the media alive with scoops - and that is of real concern in this judgment."

 
 

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