The News of the World has won the right to put a 90-second sex video of Formula One head Max Mosley and five prostitutes back on its website.
High Court judge Mr Justice David Eady today ruled that the video – which was viewed almost 1.5 million times in the two days it was on the paper’s website and has now been copied and spread across the internet – is now “so widely accessible” that a court order blocking the sex tape, as sought by FIA president Mosley, “would make very little practical difference”.
“The dam has effectively burst,” the judge said..
“I have, with some reluctance, come to the conclusion that, although this material is intrusive and demeaning, and despite the fact that there is no legitimate public interest in its further publication, the granting of an order against this respondent at the present juncture would merely be a futile gesture. Anyone who wishes to access the footage can easily do so, and there is no point in barring the News of the World from showing what is already available.”
Mosley had sought a High Court injunction barring the News of the World from putting the clip back on its website. However, he will pursue a breach of privacy claim for damages against publishers News Group Newspapers at a trial now scheduled for July.
The judge said that the film clip – an edited version of a much longer videotape taken by one of the prostitutes – accompanied an article published on line and in the newspaper headlined “F1 Boss Has Sick Nazi Orgy With Five Hookers.”
He said the clip was viewed 1,424,959 times between its publication on 30 March, and the publishers’ decision to voluntarily take it down on 31 March following a complaint from Mosley’s solicitors.
In his judgment, he said he had been given a copy of the footage.
He continued: “It is very brief, containing shots of Mr Mosley taking part in sexual activities with five prostitutes, and it also covers the tea break. The session seems to have been devoted mainly to activities which were conveniently described as ‘S and M’. They lasted for several hours.
“The very brief extracts which I was shown seemed to consist mainly of people spanking each other’s bottoms. There is also a scene in which Mr Mosley was pretending to have his head examined for lice. This appears to have been part of acting out a prison fantasy, in which he is described as having come from another ‘facility’. His is because notions of restraint and punishment are integral to this type of sexual activity.
“There were discreet blocks incorporated on the extracts I saw, so as to make sure that no private parts were on display, or, for that matter, the prostitutes’ faces.”
Mr Justice Eady said that Mosley does not dispute that the events occurred, but maintains that they were private and their publication breaches his human right to respect for his privacy.
He said that Mosley also challenges the News of the World’s characterisation of his activities as “Nazi role play”.
Ruling that the clip can go back on the website, the judge said that, since the publication of the clip online and an article about it in the News of the World on 30 March, the events had received ‘massive coverage throughout the world”.
He said that there was ‘in practical terms, no longer anything which the law can protect”.
In a written statement, the News of the World’s legal manager Tom Crone said: “Max Mosley’s attempt to suppress the News of the World’s video of his sordid activities has ailed.”
The film will be placed back on the News of the World website.