The UK’s Sunday Mirror publisher loses in landmark EU privacy case

The UK’s Sunday Mirror publisher loses in landmark EU privacy case

Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) has lost its latest bid to overturn a privacy ruling actioned in the French courts by actor Olivier Martinez, reports the Guardian.

MGN publishes the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People, as well as the Daily Record and Sunday Mail in Scotland, and French actor Martinez successfully sued the group in 2008 following an article published online about his relationship with then-partner Kylie Minogue. The publisher argued that a French court didn’t have the power to rule over an English-language story published on a UK website, and thus took its case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Europe’s highest court.

Today, however, the court has ruled in Martinez’s favor, in what could be a landmark case for the online publishing industry in Europe. This precedent could pave the way for European publishers to be sued by anyone, anywhere in the European Union for intrusive articles published about them on the Internet, with the action taking place in their country of residence rather than where the publishers is legally registered.

The original action back in 2008 was brought about by Martinez after he claimed that an article on about his relationship with Minogue had adversely affected his reputation in France, and that the interference with his private life had infringed on his image rights.

The ECJ Judges stated that publishing content on a website was different from “the regional distribution of printed matter”, given that online material “can be consulted by an indefinite number of internet users worldwide”, before noting that the best courts to assess the reputational damage might be where the individual’s “centre of interests” or “habitual residence” is.

Whether this case really does set a precedent or not could be about to be tested too. Max Mosley, the former president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), has also been battling the News of the World newspaper, another UK newspaper, in French courts, following coverage of his sexual activity with prostitutes in the now-defunct newspaper back in 2008. Whilst he has previously won a privacy battle against the News of the World in UK courts, he opted to launch a separate action because physical copies of the newspaper, as well as video footage of him at an orgy, were circulated in France too.

This ruling is expected to be announced in November this year, and in conjunction with Olivier Martinez’s victory today, it could have a big impact on media-celebrity relations across the European Union.

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