The British press traditionally has respected the privacy of members of the royal family when they are out of the public eye, as William and Kate were when they were shot on a well-guarded estate in Provence. By contrast, Prince Harry invited strangers with cellphone cameras to his hotel room, forgoing some expectation of privacy.
The matter also comes up amid the lengthy phone-hacking scandal in Great Britain, which has revealed extensive government corruption and ignited widespread public outrage about the sometimes-illegal news-gathering methods of the Murdoch-owned press.
As a result, “I don’t think any Brit outlet will touch” the Middleton photos, said Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the independent Guardian newspaper.
French privacy laws are considered among the strictest in Western Europe; the French Criminal Code specifies punishment of a year in prison and a fine of up to 45,000 euros ($59,000) for the “willful violation of the intimacy of the private life of other persons” as a result of “recording or transmitting the picture of a person who is within a private place, without the consent of the person concerned.”
Civil damages for privacy violations in France have typically been low, far less than the top criminal fine, said Gillian Phillips, director of editorial legal services for the Guardian’s parent company.
Phillips said she believed it was “highly likely” that the royal family could succeed with its claims against Berlusconi’s magazine company, Mondadori Media.
But Marina Berlusconi, the former prime minister’s daughter’s daughter and Mondadori’s chairwoman, said in a letter to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that her company “did its job” in upholding freedom of the press by publishing the photos.
Chi’s editor, Alfonso Signorini, told the Telegraph, a British newspaper, that the photos were a “nonviolation of privacy because they were taken from a public space . . . the photos are absolutely within the confines of the Italian law.”
Some of the photos obtained by Closer were republished last week by the Irish Daily Star. In response, the tabloid newspaper’s co-owner, British media baron Richard Desmond, has threatened to pull out of the joint venture that owns the paper, which could lead to its shutting down.