PCC rejects privacy complaint from JK Rowling

The Press Complaints Commission has rejected a privacy complaint against three national newspapers by Harry Potter author JK Rowling because details they had reported had already been widely available online.

Rowling had complained, through solicitors Schillings, about articles in the Daily Mirror, Daily Record and Mail on Sunday.

She complained that the papers had, in stories published last October, violated her privacy under Clause 3 of the Code by identifying the location of a property she had bought in Perthshire.

But the PCC found that the newspapers had not been responsible for putting new material into the public domain.

Details of Rowling’s property had already been in the public domain ‘to a considerable extent’ beyond land registry and electoral roll documents before the papers’ articles appeared. Her association with the Perthshire property were already widely available in the media and on the internet, including an entry on Wikipedia, the commission found.

As a result, restraining further publication ‘would serve no purpose”, the commission decided.

In addition, the stories did not give precise details of Rowling’s home, such as a road name or its location relative to the nearest town.

The PCC has previously ruled that addresses are not inherently private information, but that identifying the homes of high-profile people who could be the victim of stalkers could be a breach of the Code.

Its decisions on the subject include a 2005 ruling in a complaint Rowling had made against the Daily Mirror, which had published details making it possible to identify the location of her London home.

In that case, the commission suggested that the existence of public land registry and electoral roll documents associating her with property was not a sufficient justification for identifying the exact location of her home.

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