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Scotsman.com
 
Tuesday, 12th December 2006

UK

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The Scotsman Tue 21 Nov 2006

Zeta-Jones picture saga means UK could soon say Hello! to privacy law

FERGUS SHEPPARD MEDIA CORRESPONDENT

BRITAIN could be heading towards the introduction of privacy laws, a leading Scottish human-rights lawyer last night predicted, as

the saga over the wedding pictures of the film stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas again took centre-stage at Britain's highest court.

The Law Lords are considering the latest chapter in legal action that began after the magazine Hello! published unauthorised pictures of the couple's wedding at New York's Plaza Hotel in November 2000.

The couple had agreed an exclusive £1 million contract with the rival celebrity title OK! and successfully argued in 2003 that Hello! had breached their rights of confidence. At issue in the latest hearing is whether magazines can sue if an exclusive deal is spoiled and whether exclusivity extends beyond publication of the pictures.

OK! magazine is appealing to the Law Lords after three Court of Appeal judges last year ordered the magazine to pay back damages, costs and interest amounting to nearly £2 million to Hello!. That hearing accepted Hello!'s argument that "spoiler" articles were accepted practice in publishing and publication of nine clandestinely taken images had not infringed OK!'s commercial rights.

John Scott, an Edinburgh lawyer, said: "I think we are drifting towards a proper privacy law, but unfortunately it's going to unfold slowly. It's probably an area that could benefit from the Law Commission looking at it so that it's dealt with in a more methodical way, rather than piecemeal on the basis of problems encountered by celebrities."

Richard Millett, QC, representing OK!, yesterday told a panel of five law lords headed by Lord Nicholls that it had been established at the High Court that the exclusive was an "extremely valuable" asset to his clients. He said the Douglases, who were no longer involved in the case, had agreed exclusivity with OK! to preserve their confidentiality rather than to make any money.

"This included a reduction in the risk of intrusion at their wedding and partly to control the presentation of what was published for the enhancement of their own professional careers."

The QC said the couple had also agreed not to publish any other photographs from the wedding other than those they had selected for publication.

"This was a fact of great significance because the subject of the contract was confidentiality," he said. "The contract threw a ring of confidentiality around the entire wedding that the Douglases themselves were not entitled to break."

The hearing was told that Sanchez Junco, the Spanish publisher of the Hello! magazines, knew OK! had an exclusive and that his publication of the snatched wedding pictures would damage that exclusive. Publication of the photographs was a breach of confidence and OK! was entitled to damages, the QC said.

Hello! will argue during the five-day hearing that any confidentiality ceased after OK! published the photographs.

It is also expected to argue that a victory for OK! would be tantamount to giving celebrities "image rights", effectively allowing them to control what images of them are published - something that is not recognised in English law.

Zeta-Jones, 37, told the High Court in 2003 that she felt "devastated, shocked and appalled" when she realised unauthorised photographers had gatecrashed her wedding at the Plaza, outwitting a security operation designed to foil the paparazzi.

Yesterday's action will again revive arguments over whether a privacy law should be created in Britain and what right of privacy celebrities can expect.

Britain has no privacy act automatically protecting citizens, although the 1998 Human Rights Act incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights. That law states that "everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence".

Bob Satchwell, the director of the Society of Editors, said that yesterday's hearing was about people who "bask in their celebrity when it suits them".

He said: "This is not about privacy. The case originally was about the financial deals they [the Douglases] did for the pictures of their wedding.

"There are far bigger issues to discuss about privacy, not least of which is the fact that in the UK the government is now collecting so much more information about all of us and sharing it within various departments. That is a much more serious side to the privacy debate which too often gets forgotten."

Mark Stephen, a media lawyer, said: "There is a growing move towards creating privacy laws and away from using libel to protect reputations."

Related topics

This article: http://news.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=1722782006

Last updated: 21-Nov-06 09:37 GMT

Comments

1. 'Suck' McCrunchie / 4:03am 21 Nov 2006

"Zeta-Jones picture saga means UK could soon say Hello! to privacy law"

The interesting jusxtapose of "Zeta-Jones" and "saga" is clearly no more than thinly veiled advertising for the holiday company her husband uses.

Report as unsuitable
2. Mallory / 4:29am 21 Nov 2006

Oh yeah... pols and 'stars' are gagging for this kinda bill and the 'control' it affords them to maintain a crafted and sanitised image.

In my book if you seek exposure on the public stage in whatever guise you must take the effects of the spotlight. If not keep you head down and behave!

Incidently who is (was) Zeta thinggy?

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3. Alisha / 8:21am 21 Nov 2006

Privacy, huh? What about the story I read yesterday on it becoming mandatory for all British citizens to get a micro chip implanted into their arms so the government can keep track of their every move, hmm? That has already been implanted into several Americans? Are we to turn into dogs and get the same chips as they have? Arent the CCTV's enough?!?!?

It's sad how a bill needs to be put into effect just because a celebrity has their privacy invaded. My privacy is invaded every day, would that make a difference to you? I doubt it.

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4. IanW, Germany / 9:30am 21 Nov 2006

Why on earth are the courts involved. OK magazine had an agreement with the Douglases regarding publication of their photographs. Hello magazine had no agreement with anyone. They obtained the photographs legally, perhaps not morally but nevertheless legally, and chose to publish them. So what if if another company had an agreement. Both OK and Hello magazines are commercial companies competing for broadly the same readership.

OK magazine may have lost some sales revenue because Hello scooped them. So what get over it and move on.

Mallory #2 - The Zeta thingy is a rather poor (ability) british actress who found a sugar-daddy and wants everything for her alone.

Report as unsuitable
5. Rubbersnap, Kircudbright / 9:33am 21 Nov 2006

I'm all fot it. Fed up to the back teeth with the celebrity cult! However, it should apply to EVERYBODY!!

How many pages will newspapers and magazines have then? Will they drop the cost to reflect the change?

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6. BorderGuy, Edinburgh / 9:44am 21 Nov 2006

If it means interesting tv, and newspapers publishing half the amount of pi$h that passes for 'Entertainment News', then two very enthusiastic thumbs up for the privacy laws!

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7. Media 1, Cape Town / 11:26am 21 Nov 2006

I think this is great news.. The actors and the actresses will now be hiring paparazzi to shoot pictures of them..

Be careful for what you wish Zeta, it may come true......

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8. JG, Fife / 11:27am 21 Nov 2006

Couldn't care less about Catherine Zeta Jones or her pictures. Go away!!

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9. Jockyw / 11:33am 21 Nov 2006

I wonder why her previous three engagements broke off?
Answer: I heard from two of them that she was c--p in bed. She might have the looks due to a huge bank of Michael.
She's idle and will never be really posh even after marrying into a wealthy acting family.
What goes around comes around darling bud.

Report as unsuitable
10. Doreen, The Cyber Shebeen / 11:55am 21 Nov 2006

Och when it boils doon tae it we'r aw fishwives!

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11. Arthur / 12:05pm 21 Nov 2006

Lets' not get bogged down in the lifestyles of the rich and famous here it's not what it's about.
I take the view that we are all entitled to privacy in our private lives regardless of how we make our living, or how famous we are, as long as what we are doing is legal, the media should but out.
I cannot understand this clamour the public apparently have to know every intimate detail of the rich and famous, it just gives them a sense of greater worth than they are entitled to.
If people got on with their own lives, and kept their noses out the media would find no value in producing such invasive tripe and gossip.

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12. Scott 'Ola' Foam / 2:38pm 21 Nov 2006

Would make her a bit more interesting if we saw her with them oot! Might change her prude upperclass image that she's honed.

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13. AshvaleChick, Aberdeen, Scotland / 3:03pm 21 Nov 2006

i think that this is aa good thing! celebs might now be famous for actually doing something! and not just being famous for being famous!

Report as unsuitable
14. Jockyw / 10:34pm 21 Nov 2006

More are famous for losing at things.
The world has gone crazy.

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Commenting on this article has closed.