The European Court of Human Rights ruled that “the private lives of celebrities are of legitimate interest to the media,” the Guardian reported. The Associated Press called the rulings “potentially groundbreaking.”
The rulings, in two cases of celebrities suing the media, “establish legal precedents for privacy cases” according to the Guardian. The two cases (see the ruling here) addressed an unnamed German actor’s complaint over Bild‘s story on his arrest and Princess Caroline of Monaco’s complaint over photographs published by Frau in Spiegel of her and her husband ” taking a walk during their skiing holiday in St Moritz.”
According to the BBC, the German actor complained over two articles published in 2004 and 2005 about his arrest “in a Munich beer tent for possessing cocaine.” The BBC noted that the actor obtained an injunction from a “Hamburg court” that also called for “Bild‘s publisher to pay a penalty.” The European Court of Human Rights, however, “decided the Hamburg injunction breached the newspaper’s right to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Convention.”
The AP added that the court highlighted the arrest being in a “public place” and the news sources for Bild being German officials.
With regards to Princess Caroline’s complaint, the court found the photos were OK to publish. As the Guardian explained, because the photos were taken in public and not “in a climate of general harassment” or “secretly,” the court found the magazine “had not therefore infringed her privacy rights.” Her lawyer, Mattias Prinz, however, called the photos a “permanent intrusion by the paparazzi” according to the BBC.
We have written to Bild seeking comment on the rulings and will update with any response. We were unable to find a contact address for Frau in Spiegel
We wrote in May 2011 when the European Court of Human Rights ruled against a bid for “prior notification” in the U.K., a rule which would call on newspapers to contact the subjects of stories prior to publication. The application was brought by Max Mosley, the former head of Formula One racing. We’ve written about Mosley’s lawsuits against News of the World for invasion of privacy after the newspaper published a 2008 story and video titled “F1 boss has sick Nazi orgy with 5 hookers.” Mosley filed an appeal against the ruling in June 2011.