Hello! given OK! to appeal against ruling

Last year’s High Court Hollywood extravaganza featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas in a battle over unauthorised use of their wedding photographs is set for an Appeal Court encore.

Mr Justice Lindsay, the judge who awarded damages to the couple and OK!, has given Hello! magazine permission to appeal both on the question of liability and the level of the damages awarded.

In November, at the end of the mammoth hearing, the judge awarded Zeta-Jones and Douglas £14,600 over the unauthorised use of their wedding pictures by Hello!.

He awarded £1m to OK!, which had bought the exclusive wedding picture rights from the couple.

Hello!’s solicitor, Christopher Hutching of the London firm M Law, said: “The appeal will consider whether a story, which has been obtained on an exclusive basis by one media organisation, should remain confidential after the publication by that organisation of the story.”

In seeking permission to appeal, James Price QC argued in court that the case raised “significant issues relating to the laws of privacy and confidence”.

He said it also raised, among other things, a question over whether a right of confidence which protects personal privacy could be transmitted by sale to a commercial publisher.

“The present judgment may have serious implications so far as the widespread practice of publishing spoilers is concerned.

“The Court of Appeal will also consider the level of damages which the defendants have presently been ordered to pay to OK! magazine.”

Zeta-Jones and Douglas were also given permission to appeal on one point. The judge in the case found that their “commercial confidence” had been breached, but now they have been given the go-ahead to ask the Appeal Court to rule that there had been an infringement of their privacy as well.

No date has been set for the hearing, but it is expected to take place later this year.

By Roger Pearson

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