Content Regulation / Censorship, Privacy, Data Protection and Retention, Defamation / Reputation
Hegglin v. Google
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In this case, the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris ordered the French tabloid, OOPS! to pay €8,000 in damages to the actor Leonardo DiCaprio for interference with his private life and violation of his image rights. The magazine was also ordered to publish a statement summarizing the Tribunal’s decision on its front cover.
Leonardo DiCaprio, a well known actor, sued a french tabloid magazine called OOPS! after it published its number 188 issue on May 13 to 28, 2015, which included a cover headline and two-page article alleging that he had impregnated a famous musician, Rihanna, and did not want to recognize the child as his own. The front cover, which had side-by-side photos of both celebrities, read “Rihanna pregnant by Leonardo!”«Rihanna enceinte de Leonardo!» With the subtitle “he does not recognize the baby … “« il ne veut pas reconnaître le bébé… » next to the words OOPS SCOOP! The article itself contained two photos of Leonardo and three of Rihanna that Leornado said were stolen.
Leonardo DiCaprio argued that the article was based on pure conjecture without qualification or reservation. He argued that the publication was wrong firstly because what was reported was false and touched on one of the most intimate aspects of privacy, and second, the pictures used were published without authorization. It was pointed out that the intrusive and sensationalist nature of the article had created moral damage that was exacerbated by the fact that the magazine was distributed at the Cannes Film Festival, where DiCaprio was present.
The Magazine argued that Leonardo DiCaprio, was a world famous star, and thus, could not argue that his privacy was violated. It was argued that he regularly exposed the women with whom he was romantically linked and his relationship with Rihanna in particular was well known and he had not seen fit to deny it. With regards to the photographs, the magazine argued that they were harmless and had been taken in a formal setting, the ceremony at which he was elected to be a UN Peace Messenger. Furthermore, pictures of him were regularly acquired by the magazine, either in the street or in a public place. It was argued that any injury suffered was at most symbolic as DiCaprio generally did not hesitate to use the media to build his career and publicly display his many conquests.
Judge Fabienne Siredey-Garnier presided over the case and delivered Judgment.
Firstly, It was held that in accordance with Article 9 of the French Civil Code and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms that every person, regardless of his or her reputation, has the right to respect for his or her private life and is entitled to protect this right, and every person is therefore entitled to set the way in which their private life may be disclosed in the press. Similarly, with regard to one’s own image, which is an attribute of one’s personality, individuals have the exclusive right to make decisions about the use made of such images. This means that an individual may oppose dissemination without consent. Secondly, however, it was held that these rights have to be reconciled with the right to freedom of expression and may in some cases even have to yield to freedom of information, especially when a text or photographic representation on a matter is likely to be a legitimate public interest, subject to respect for the dignity of the human person. Finally, the court pointed out that the dissemination of information that is innocuous or already well known to the public does not constitute an interference with privacy.
In this particular case, however, the Tribunal held that it was wrong for the defendant to claim that the article in question did not affect the right to respect for the private life of Leonardo DiCaprio. Contrary to what the magazine argued, the subject matter of the article was in no way about the supposed romantic link between Leonardo DiCaprio and Rihanna. Rather, the article was about the alleged pregnancy of Rihanna and especially about the attitude of DiCaprio in the face of this event.
The Court pointed to comments in article such as “The baby, he does not want it! ” «Le bébé, il n’en veut pas!», and held that the article lacked regard for the particularly intimate nature of such a revelation and made the allegations in the absence of even the smallest amount of evidence of the accuracy of the facts. It was held that there was a violation of privacy in this case and that the content of the article did not fall under the category of information legitimately in the public interest. The Tribunal also held that, regardless of whether photos used were taken with or without the knowledge of the person concerned, their use through a photomontage was juxtaposed on the cover page with the objective of creating the idea of a proven connection between Rihanna and DiCaprio, and hence, the announced pregnancy was an infringement of Di Caprio’s image rights.
The Tribunal held that it was clear that the article in question, occupying an important place in the magazine and the bulk of the cover, was inherently likely to cause serious harm to DiCaprio. This was indicated by the open and insistent way the publication recklessly dealt with a particularly intimate topic. Furthermore, the magazine failed to establish the alleged appeasing attitude that Leonardo DiCaprio takes towards the media. No evidence presented showed that he would use his private life in order to maintain a career and a well-established reputation.
Therefore, it was held that the Magazine should pay to Leonardo DiCaprio the sum of 8000 Euros in compensation for moral damage resulting from a violation to his private life and his image rights. Further, the magazine was ordered to print the decision of the Tribunal on the cover page of its next issue.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This case expands freedom of expression as it is a demonstration of a court striking an appropriate balance between freedom of the press and the right to one’s privacy, even when involving a person of prominence for whom many aspects of his or her personal life are made known to the public. The court here placed a limit of press freedom, finding that a news outlet could not simply recklessly report false news, based on little to no evidence about matters that are particularly intimate and private, under the guise of freedom of expression.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
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