Kate Middleton and her husband, Prince William, have prevailed in their invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against the French magazine Closer over some topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge, although they won a far lesser amount then they and prosecutors originally sought.
The British royal couple originally sued for approximately the equivalent of $1.6 million in U.S. dollars in money damages.
The prince and princess brought the case in a Paris-area criminal court against six individuals affiliated with Closer following the publication of pictures showing Middleton sunbathing topless while on vacation in the south of France in September 2012, while they were staying at a private chateau owned by Queen Elizabeth’s nephew. Using a telephoto lens, paparazzi allegedly took photographs of Kate as she was enjoying the sun while she was relaxing on a private terrace at the villa in Provence. While the images were subsequently banned in France, they were picked up by other European publications, as well as online.
Judges in the Paris-area suburb of Nanterre rendered their decision today, CBS News reported, which nonetheless constitutes one of the highest damage awards in the country’s history for a privacy violation.
“The court ordered the bosses of the magazine to pay 100,000 euros ($118,000) in damages to Kate and her husband Prince William over the photos, published in 2012. The court also ordered Closer magazine’s editor and owner to each pay 45,000 euros ($53,000), the maximum possible fines under French privacy law.”
The execs could also have been jailed for up to one year. Two paparazzi were apparently hit with lesser fines, Reuters noted.
Neither Kate Middleton, who announced yesterday that she is pregnant with her third child, nor Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and second-in-line to the British throne, attended any of the court proceedings.
The judgment in the case comes almost exactly 20 years after William’s mother, the beloved Princess Diana, tragically died in a car accident in a Paris tunnel while paparazzi chased her and her boyfriend, prompting worldwide mourning. At the time of a May 2017 court hearing in this case, Princess Diana’s son asserted in a document filed in court that “the photographs were shocking and ‘all the more painful’ given the harassment linked to the death of his mother,” CBS News separately reported.
Privacy laws are generally stricter in Europe than in the U.S. Apart from legal procedures operating differently (including resolving these matters in civil, rather than criminal, court), anyone considered a public figure (i.e., a potential plaintiff with celebrity status) in America has a difficult legal burden to overcome when seeking damages from media organizations.
This usually involves — among other things — a requirement to prove actual malice. A notable exception to the advantage that media outlets usually enjoy in such controversies was professional wrestler Hulk Hogan’s successful invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker, which sent the latter into bankruptcy.
As the court ruling in the Kate Middleton and Prince William case against the French gossip tabloid is an ongoing story, watch this space for updates.
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