Hello! wins appeal over damages for wedding pics

By Alyson Fixter and Roger Pearson

Hello! scored a victory over OK! in the Appeal Court this week when
the ruling ordering the magazine to pay more than £1m to its rival for
publishing spoiler pictures of the wedding of Catherine Zeta Jones and
Michael Douglas was overturned.

Hello! had previously been told to hand over £1,033,156 to OK! for
reproducing the snatched photos of the 2000 event, which spoiled OK!’s
exclusive rights agreement with the Hollywood couple.

Three
judges ruled that Hello! must still pay £14,600 damages to the
Douglases for invading their privacy, but, significantly, stated that
privacy was not something that could be transferred to a third party,
such as OK!.

The decision could have important ramifications for
the publishing industry if more magazines feel it is safe to run
spoiler stories that affect exclusive deals.

Sally Cartwright,
publishing director of Hello!, said staff were “very, very pleased”,
but added that it was extraordinary the case had taken five years to
reach this point. She said: “We were expecting a judgment in January,
so the fact that it hasn’t appeared until May is a sign that these
three judges had a great deal to think about.

“We lost in our appeal against paying damages to the Douglases but we never had any problem with that anyway.

“It’s possible that OK! will now appeal, but given we have thrjudges on our side, I don’t know how successful they will be.”

The
court, headed by one of the country’s senior judges, Master of the
Rolls, Lord Phillips, overturned the original High Court decision that
OK!

was entitled to more than £1m in damages and about £2m in legal costs.

Lord
Phillips said: “Various factors render it impossible to contend that
the figure adopted by the judge was one which he could not properly
have reached.” It was, he said, “a matter of valuation opinion”.

OK!
said in a statement that the judge’s decision meant the law now
provided no remedy for losses such as those it claimed to have suffered
and hoped the judgment would be reversed by an appeal.

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