The recent publication of topless photos of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, have been headline news throughout the world. First published in France’s Closer magazine, then re-published in Italy’s Chi magazine and the Irish Daily Star, the publication of photos have brought renewed interest in privacy laws on an international scale.
On September 18th, a French court demanded Closer’s publishers to hand over all the photos they have of the Duchess and blocked further publication of the photos by those publishers only. The New York Times quoted an American lawyer, who practices in France, who stated that while French law strongly protects privacy rights, tabloids have their own reasons for ignoring those laws and facing the fines. Since they only, in total, face about $15,000 in fines, it is easy to see why those laws could be ignored. The profit that could be made from people buying the magazine to see these photos would easily exceed that sum.
The Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Defense has, in the wake of this scandal, called for the new privacy legislation to be enacted. The last time Ireland’s Privacy Bill was updated was in 2006. Obviously, new technologies that have sped up the dissemination of information have been invented and utilized since then. The owners of the Irish Daily Star have both condemned the publication of the photos while the editors of Chi do not see “anything morbid or damaging about them”. The magazine is owned by former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi. Take that fact as you may.
With all the different forums of law at play here, the question now becomes, should Kate and William have to file separate lawsuits to block publication of these photos? Should there be an international forum that controls freedom of the press issues? Or does this affect each nation’s sovereignty and their historical view of the press? While this particular photo subject may seem light, remember that William’s mother, Princess Diana, was killed in a car crash because paparazzi were chasing her car through the streets trying to get that one, profitable shot.
There should, at the very minimum, be an international body which can fine or sanction these publications if they disregard their own country’s privacy laws, as these gossip magazines seem to be doing. And these fines need to be substantial enough to create an impact and make an example of publications who disregard these laws.