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An appellate court in Brazil refused an application for compensation for the unauthorized use of a crime victim’s image in a news article on an historical criminal case. The victim had sued a Brazilian broadcaster for publishing an article about its coverage of the historical case, 25 years after the crime. The court of first instance found no abuse of journalistic ethics and stressed the importance of freedom of information. The victim appealed the decision, but the appellate court declined to hear the matter as the victim had raised no new issues, and therefore confirmed the lower court’s judgment.
In 1991, José Eduardo Tarraf Filho, a 12-year-old boy, was kidnapped. Four individuals were convicted of the kidnapping and imprisoned.
In 2016, broadcaster TV Tem, an affiliate of Globo TV, a major Brazilian broadcaster, published an article that referred to its coverage of the 1991 case.
Terraf Filho was upset at the unauthorized use of his image, and sued the broadcaster, seeking damages for mental distress. He also sought the removal of the article from the broadcaster’s news website.
The Court of First Instance rejected Terraf Filho’s application, finding that the facts in the article were of public interest and that their publication complied with the principles established in the Federal Constitution. The Court also found that the requirements for damages for mental distress had not been met. Judge Lincoln Augusto Casconi noted that there are three requirements to constitute civil liability for an illicit act: conduct by the agent contrary to the law; damage or harmful result to the offended party; and causal connection. The Court found that the broadcaster’s conduct did not meet any of these requirements: there was no fault in the broadcaster’s behavior when publishing the article mentioning the case, and there was no damage to the author, understanding that the content of the article “did not unduly affront the author’s right to privacy, honor and image”.
Terraf Filho appealed the decision to the 8th Chamber of Private Law of the Court of Appeals of São Paulo.
Judge Alexandre Coelho presided over the case. The central question for the Court was whether the article’s publication constituted an illicit act that could result in damages for moral distress.
The Court found that Tarraf Filho had merely reproduced the arguments he had made in the lower court and so refused to hear the appeal because Tarraf Filho had not identified any errors in the lower court’s judgment.
The Court did state that the lower court’s decision had been well founded.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The decision is in line with the rights provided for in the Federal Constitution. It defends freedom of expression and freedom of information. Although not mentioned in the public documents of the process, the author’s request is related to the right to be forgotten, which was not recognized by the court.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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