Watch that iPhone!

privacy and libel lawThe intrusive photographs of Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge, although taken at different locations and in different circumstances had one thing in common.  Both were taken in a situation where there was a reasonable expectation of privacy and where there had been a calculated decision to profit commercially, in total disregard for an individual’s basic rights.

The fact that both victims were members of the Royal Family is academic, in that any member of the general public could be victimised in a similar manner.  It’s just that there may not be the same financial value in the photographs.

In recent times, I have had to deal with a press photographer taking aerial photographs from a helicopter of the private homes of well-known individuals.  The following weekend the newspaper published not only the photographs, but also highlighting where the individual kept his art collection, vintage cars, etc.  A burglar’s charter apart from anything else!

With the rapid development of the photographic capabilities of the iPhone and other mobile devices, not to mention the ongoing improvement in the long range capability of a paparazzi’s camera, this is a problem that is going to increasingly affect us all, whether at a private party or in our own front living room after a few glasses of chardonnay on a Saturday night.  The tabloids appear to have taken the view that if they can snap it, then they can publish it!

The difficulty is that once a photograph has been published online, the privacy horse has bolted and there really is no adequate remedy to repair the situation.  What is needed is a robust deterrent in the form of punitive damages in order that the photographer, and more importantly the relevant Editor, is aware of the serious consequences arising from his decision to publish, in the event that he decides to disseminate unauthorised photographs in reckless disregard for an individual’s privacy.

Watch this space...........!

Paul Tweed



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