Lads’ magazine Loaded has seen off a privacy complaint brought by a women it wrote about in a story headlined: “Wanted! The Epic Boobs girl!”.
The story featured photographs of the woman, said to have “the best breasts on the block”, taken from the internet. And it offered readers a reward of £500 for assistance in encouraging the woman to do a photoshoot with the magazine.
The woman complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the article breached her privacy under clause three of the Editors’ Code. But the watchdog revealed today that it had ruled in favour of the magazine saying there was no breach of privacy, although it did question the ‘tastefulness’of the piece.
The complainant said that the photos had been uploaded by her on to the social networking website Bebo in 2006 when she was 15 and that they had been taken from there and published without permission.
She said she could not remember whether the site had privacy settings in place and that the Loaded article was intrusive and had caused her upset and embarrassment.
Loaded told the PCC that it had not taken the pictures from Bebo, but that they were widely available on the internet – so much so that when they typed ‘boobs’into Google, her photo was the third most popular image search. It said that at the time of her complaint, Google registered 1,760,000 matches which related to her as the ‘Epic Boobs’girl.
In its adjudication the PCC said: “This case raised the important principle of the extent to which newspapers and magazines are able to make use of information that is already freely available online.
“The commission has previously published decisions about the use of material uploaded to social networking sites, which have gone towards establishing a set of principles in this area.
“However, this complaint was different: the magazine had not taken the material from the complainant’s Bebo site; rather it had published a piece commenting on something that had widespread circulation online (having been taken from the Bebo page some time ago by others) and was easily accessed by Google searches.
“â€¦the magazine had not accessed material from a personal site and then been responsible for an especially salacious means of presenting it; instead it had published a piece discussing the fact that this material was already being widely used in this way by others.
“The commission did not think it was possible for it to censure the magazine for commenting on material already given a wide circulation, and which had already been contextualised in the same specific way, by many others.
“Although the code imposes higher standards on the press than exist for material on unregulated sites, the commission felt that the images were so widely established for it to be untenable for the commission to rule that it was wrong for the magazine to use them.”
The PCC said that the fact the girl was 15 when the photos were taken “added to the questionable tastefulness of the article”.
But it said: ‘Issues of taste and offence – and any question of the legality of the material – could not be ruled upon by the commission, which was compelled to consider only the terms of the Editors’ Code.”