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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 09:22 GMT
Are stars' lives public property?
Catherine Zeta Jones gave evidence at the High Court in London on Monday where she is making a £500,000 damages claim against Hello! magazine.
Zeta Jones and her husband Michael Douglas say their private life was violated when the celebrity magazine published unauthorised photographs of their wedding day.
Guests were banned from taking pictures but undercover photographers gatecrashed the wedding and sold photographs to Hello! who had lost out on an exclusive on the ceremony to OK! magazine.
Stress, loss of income and damage to their professional careers are being cited as the couple as grounds for suing the magazine.
But Hello! says the couple forfeited any right to privacy by actively seeking to publicise the event.
Do you think the couple's privacy was violated? Can they expect privacy while signing magazine deals? Do you accept the couple's careers were damaged by the unauthorised photographs? Tell us what you think.
Thank you for your comments; this debate is now closed. A selection of your e-mails is published below.
While they are well within their rights to defend their privacy, the fact they are doing so because they are protecting the cash generated by the sale of pictures is unappealing.
This is simply about Hello choosing to ignore the fact they lost the exclusive rights to their rival OK. Hello wrongly assumed Michael Douglas & Catherine Zeta Jones wouldn't bother to pursue them. Hello should be hit with a £5 million punitive fine to discourage the press from assuming it can breach legal contracts with impunity.
If Jones and Douglas wanted their wedding day to be private, then why didn't they do a Madonna? She managed to have a private wedding without the need to sell the rights to the highest bidder. Superstar-wannabes take note!
They didn't suffer any lose of income because, as far as I know, they still got the money for the photo deal, they haven't suffered any stress because they have devoted their lives to drawing attention to themselves, so they must love it. And as for claiming damage to their careers I'd say they have already done this by posing for ludicrous airbrushed photos of their wedding in some gossip magazine!
Presumably, the magazine that published the unauthorised pictures had already been refused permission to do so. I'm not sure that the Douglas' should sue for invasion of privacy, but certainly for loss of earnings. Whether they already have a lot of money or not is besides the point, a celebrity makes their money by "selling themselves" and their image, and in this case they are victims of theft.
Everyone should be entitled to their privacy, even the rich and famous. After all, they're just people too.
Richard Philips, UK
The magazines make their money from the photos they include on their pages. It's only fair that the magazines pay for that. If Hello! gets away with this then why should the magazines pay for pictures again? If you go into a supermarket to expect to pay for the goods in your trolley, you don't expect to get them for free because someone else has already paid for similar products. Douglas/Jones sold the rights to photograph their wedding to the highest bidder - good for them, that doesn't give the loser the right to then take them for free.
I cannot believe the nerve of Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas. They are only complaining because they didn't get any money for these pictures. How on earth does having a few photos taken of you kissing each other on your wedding day equate with having your home burgled?
Steve B, Scotland
It was their wedding day. If they can't have a bit of privacy for their wedding day, then the press is really out of order. And yes, they're famous, so people want to see their photos, so they agreed to a private company to allow them to choose the photos seen. A second company then gate crashed, took pictures without permission, and published them. I have to say that if someone had gate crashed my wedding, took photos of me that I wasn't particularly fussed on, and then published them I'd be looking for compensation.
I find myself sympathising with them, bizarrely enough. If Hello wanted the photos, surely they should have offered two million and out-bid OK. Anyway, the main point is we need celebrity madness at a time when we're on the brink of war.
The basis of their complaint is rather unseemly somehow. Why on earth should established actors possibly want to become embroiled in the squalor of such a case? They clearly chose to make a "spectacle" of their Wedding. The consequences of high-profile "society" weddings are clear to see.
Richard Boyd, England
In a public place, their lives are public. In a private function, their lives are private. The simple conclusion is that their privacy was invaded even though they sold the rights to the pictures. I am no fan of either of them but they have the right to decide who gets invited to their wedding and who is allowed to take pictures.
At the end of the day, the syndicated pictures were a product to be sold, and Hello! effectively stole their copyright. I hope the CZJ and MD win, and put the tabloids straight once and for all on what is and isn't public property.
I couldn't care about any celebrity couple or their weddings. The money paid, the photos, the Court case and this debate on Talking Point are all part of the same machinery to promote the cult of celebrity. Come on people - let's stop devouring details of other people's lives and start living our own. OK and Hello magazines are a sad reflection on our society.
Karl Peters, UK
What people have to remember is that celebrities are people too. They have feelings just like us, and deserve the same respect we do. Take some initiative and be courteous of their right to privacy.
It's amazing how much the rich and famous complain. They do not know what real life is about. Get a life and think about the billions of people less fortunate than you!!
I can't see how you can sue someone for privacy when you planned to have none by selling the pictures anyway!
Even though they are stars, they should be allowed private lives. Their public lives should be the films and stuff they are in, not what they do at home. It should be their choice, and tabloids should stop being so obsessed, as should the UK public!
Oliver Adams, UK
No one owns a celebrity and that is the bottom line. Yes, we do pay their wages when we go to see their films or buy their records, etc. I know I wouldn't like the company I work for employing photographers to follow me around or have everything I do plastered all over the media and neither would anyone else including the people who say celebrities deserve this.
Are they not rich enough? Why bother going into stressful legal wrangling when so heavily pregnant? Shouldn't Catherine be concentrating on the future baby rather than going through what seems to be a rather pointless court case? Why worry about this, surely only OK should be suing as they actually lost potential revenue?
I absolutely agree with Jason. Stars exist because they live in the public eye. The phenomenon of celebrity is something they are a part of - whether they like it or not - and obviously, as with any other life path there are advantages and disadvantages attendant upon it. Celebrities live by marketing their own lives to the public. I'd hate to live like that - but they've chosen to, and have no right to complain when bad things happen along with the good.
It was a private affair, and therefore the public have no 'right' to view what went on without being invited or without the permission of the happy (?) couple. Whatever they do in public is possibly 'fair game', but should still be moderate. Snooping into peoples lives because they are famous seems to be accepted, but if pictures of you or me were to appear in newspapers, revealing our daily lives, I'm sure we'd be a bit peeved.
When you think about it, it's a clever way to have a free wedding, i.e. with the proceeds from OK. As if these people don't have enough money, shame on them!
Legally in the US (and in the UK) a wedding must be a public event - it is illegal to prevent any member of the public from attending. This is because it is a legal requirement to allow anyone who has good reason to object to the wedding to do so - this leads to the contradiction in claiming a right to privacy for a legally public event.
It's clear that the privacy issue is not the real reason, but the claim is that the photographs published do not reflect how the couple would like to appear to the world. They clearly meant to manipulate the way the public see them by being selective what material was published.
The poor dears, the stress must have been intolerable. Fancy them having to wake up and see some photos of their wedding they didn't get paid for. So much harder than those lucky ordinary people who have nothing more stressful to do than pay for their own wedding photos.
Douglas & Jones do not have any right to complain. They put their own privacy on sale with
their own hands. Darn good actors such as Tom Hanks and Edward Norton do enjoy their privacy. Douglas & Jones could have had theirs as well if they really wanted to.
Isn't marriage a public ceremony?
Did the photographer have an invite? If so, then tough, if not, then the law should be on the celebs side. No-one wants gatecrashers at a party.
Jason, London, UK
I think Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas are right to sue Hello! magazine, as they should be able to chose who takes photos at their wedding, and they should be free to make deals like the one they made with OK! But I don't think it's right to pretend it has anything to do with privacy. When you sell pictures of your wedding to be published all over the world you give up your right to privacy. This is about money.
Nick Higham on the Zeta Jones court case
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