Sunday, August 27, 2006

Canadian folk singer opens the door to expanded privacy for celebrities in Europe

Canadian folk singer Loreena McKennitt has obtained an injunction in the United Kingdom to prevent the publication of some revelations in a biography. For some reason, McKennitt went to court so that nobody would know "what was under the lino of the house in Ireland, how many bunk beds were put up when visitors came to stay and what happened when McKennitt was aroused from sleep". Sounds pretty mundane to me.

But this case is important as it suggests that celebrities, who depend upon being in the public eye to a certain degree, can call upon the European courts to seek protection from the glare of the spotlight. According to the Times of London:

For the first time a British court drew on a 2004 ruling at the European Court of Human Rights that said photographs of Princess Caroline of Monaco shopping in a public place or in a swimming costume at a beach club breached her right to privacy. The judge claimed there was a “significant shift” taking place between, on the one hand, the right of freedom of expression and the corresponding interest of the public to receive information and, on the other hand, “the legitimate expectation of citizens to have their private lives protected”.

He said information about an affair between two people could be protected even if one of them decided to reveal it to the public; incorrect information could breach someone’s right to privacy; and the fact that something was already in the public domain did not always mean it could be published again.

Ash has lodged an appeal and the media organisations are seeking to join in the action when it is heard later this year.McKennitt has said in an interview: “Privacy is integral to people’s emotional and psychological wellbeing. It doesn’t matter if you are a so-called public figure.”

Media lawyers say the case has wider ramifications than the long-running one brought against a tabloid newspaper by Naomi Campbell, the supermodel. She won £3,500 damages from the Daily Mirror after it revealed her fight against drug addiction. The Court of Appeal overturned the award but the House of Lords then allowed the model’s appeal against that judgment, saying the newspaper had gone too far in detailing her medical treatment.

More info here: Folk singer opens the door to privacy law - Sunday Times - Times Online.

As a Canadian aside, PIPEDA does not offer any protection in these circumstances as it does not apply to artistic or literary endeavours. The common law may be called upon, but I don't think you'd get very far here.

1 comment:

Simon Chester said...

Why the Sunday Times chose this weekend to get into law from the late Spring is beyond me:

McKennitt & Ors v Ash & Anor [2005] EWHC 3003 (QB) (21 December 2005) England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) Decision
McKennitt & Ors v Ash & Anor [2006] EWCA Civ 778 (25 May 2006)
England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decision to deny leave