It’s safe to say that nothing is private anymore. There seems to be a concerning devaluation of a human being’s inherent right to privacy.  Taking pictures in a public place is one thing, spying on people in a secluded residence crosses the line.

This brings me to the topless photos taken of Kate Middleton in a private residence in Southern France by peeping paparazzi.  These photos made there way into a French Magazine and have received worldwide media attention.  The British royals are outraged and have filed a criminal complaint over the topless photos against the French Magazine. Further, they’re filing a criminal complaint against the unknown photographer who took the topless photos of Kate Middleton.

French Courts Ruling

The French court ruled that the publisher of the magazine must hand over all digital copies of the topless photos within 24 hours or it will face a fine of $13,000 per day.  The court also handed out an injunction to stop the magazine from republishing the offending pictures.  However, these photos have already made their way across the internet and even if they are able to get an injunction on the magazine, how would they stop the dissemination of the photos nationwide?  In my opinion, the damage is done. Unfortunately for Kate, once it’s on the Internet, it’s always on the Internet.

Invasion of Privacy

Intrusion upon seclusion is a common law invasion of privacy tort.  It is an act of intruding into the seclusion of another that would be objectionable to a reasonable person.  To prevail, the plaintiff must show that they have “a reasonable expectation of privacy.” For example, photos taken in a public place are not actionable, while peering through a keyhole or a high window is.  Most would agree that a reasonable person would object to having their pictures taken at a private residence surrounded by a park several hundred meters from a public road.  The French court even ruled, “since they were on the terrace of a private home, surrounded by a park several hundred meters from a public road, they legitimately assumed that they were protected from passers-by.”  If Kate appeared topless in public then it's presumed that she didn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy and doesn't mind if she is photographed.  Here, she is in a private place, she does have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and no one has a right to photograph her.

Stronger Penalties for Invasion of Privacy are Needed

In my opinion, invasions of privacy must be dealt with in a heavy-handed manner.  The punishment should be harsh enough to deter future acts of prying onto one’s seclusion.  How will  $13,000 a day deter a magazine company when they can make millions worldwide from this criminal act?  My guess is that the British Royals are trying to teach the paparazzi a lesson; to deter future acts of prying.  Nonetheless, I am sure the magazine does not care about the fine, as they can make more money by keeping the photos for a fine while selling them, rather then giving up their rights to republish the photos.

What to Do if You Have Been the Victim of Invasion of Privacy

Invasion of privacy is a serious issue and should be dealt with immediately.  It is best to speak to an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable about privacy torts.  You can find experienced attorneys by searching under practice area within your state.