Royals launch legal fight over topless photos in French court
Published Monday, September 17, 2012 6:20AM EDT
A royal push to stop the spread of topless photos of Prince William’s wife Kate, and punish the unidentified photographer who took them, got underway in a French court Monday.
Lawyers for the British Royal Family appeared in court in Nanterre, outside Paris, on Monday afternoon, seeking an order for the French magazine Closer to relinquish the photos of a topless Duchess of Cambridge first published in its pages last week.
Until Closer hands over the digital originals, the royal couple's lawyers argued that the tabloid should face a large, daily fine.
The magazine's legal team countered that, given the prevailing culture in which topless pictures are no longer as shocking as they once might have been, such a sanction would be disproportionate.
The Royal Family’s St. James’s Palace office had also warned it would file a criminal complaint against the unidentified photographer or photographers who snapped the topless shot.
A French prosecutor would have to decide whether to pursue a breach of privacy or trespassing case against whoever is behind the photographs, the palace said.
According to a report by the BBC, there was no name listed in the criminal complaint Monday.
Closer is part of the Italian media group Mondadori, a company owned by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Despite the lawsuit against Closer, another Mondadori-owned gossip magazine ran a 26-page spread of the topless photos on Monday.
The spread in Chi shows the Duchess relaxing with her husband in the south of France last month. It includes a never-before-published shot of her lathering sunscreen on her backside.
In an editorial, Chi editor Alfonso Signorini argued that the photos were not “perverse nor harmful” to the Duchess’ dignity. He wrote that the images made her “more likable, less anachronistic” in the eyes of the public.
CTV News’ London Correspondent Ben O'Hara-Byrne said Monday that the purpose of the Royal Family’s legal action is to prevent further dissemination of the photographs.
“They’ll attempt to have the magazine withdrawn from the shelves and prevent them from either publishing these photos again or selling them to anyone else,” he told CTV’s Canada AM.
The photos were also published in an Irish tabloid over the weekend.
Before Chi published the photos Monday, Signorini told The Associated Press that he wasn’t afraid of any legal action because the photos were already in the public domain.
O'Hara-Byrne noted that because the photos have already been published, it will be difficult to contain their spread in print and online.
“One imagines that this is an attempt to try to at least get newspapers, or magazines alert to the fact that the royal family aren’t pleased about this, that they feel a line has been crossed.”
Royal biographer Christopher Warwick said Monday that despite the Duke and Duchess’ celebrity status, the publication of the photos is a breach of privacy.
Though it’s unclear how the shots were snapped, royal photographer Harry Page told Sky News over the weekend that it looked as if they were taken with a long lens.
The photos, which St. James’s Palace have dubbed a “grotesque” abuse of privacy, haven’t appeared in Britain’s notoriously aggressive gossip magazines.
“The British press have resisted using the photographs on the grounds that it would be irresponsible to do so and on the grounds that there actually is low public interest,” Warwick told CTV’s Canada AM on Monday.
The British publications have been applauded for their restraint. Meanwhile, palace officials have compared the intrusion to the frenzied, paparazzi pursuit of the late Princess Diana.
Chi was the same magazine that stirred widespread outrage by publishing photos of Princess Diana taken shortly after her fatal car crash in Paris with Dodi Al Fayed.
“It says a great deal about the quality and indeed the audience, I suspect, of that particular (magazine),” said Warwick.