The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a French newspaper’s coverage of Prince Albert of Monaco’s illegitimate son is permissible(Ref: ECtHR 40454/07). The court thus ruled differently than the French lower courts.
In 2005, the French newspaper “Paris Match” had published an article including pictures about an illegitimate son of Albert and his mother. Albert then took the magazine to court in France and was awarded 50,000 euros in damages.
Weighing privacy — freedom of expression
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) now considered the decisions against the magazine to be a violation of freedom of expression under Article 10(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights. On the other hand, Albert’s privacy had been violated pursuant to Article 8 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, a balancing of the two rights would show that the public interest outweighs the protection of privacy in this case.
This results from the fact that a child of the prince could have possible financial and inheritance consequences for the state and thus there is a general public interest. At the time of reporting, Albert had not recognized the child, but he could have been legitimized as heir to the throne by marrying the mother. The monarch’s behavior toward the child’s mother, which is the subject of the article, is also of interest to the public because it gives an insight into the monarch’s personality and shows how he deals with responsibility.
Decision of the OLG Karlsruhe
The German courts have also already dealt with the case. In 2005, Albert had filed a lawsuit in Germany against the magazine “Bunte,” which had published an article with the same images and content. However, he was not successful before either the Freiburg Regional Court or the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court(Case No. 14 U 169/05). Both courts considered the public’s interest in information to be more important than the right to privacy.
Legal situation in Germany
In Germany, the basic right of the general right of personality under Article 2 (1) in conjunction with Article 1 (1) of the German Basic Law applies to verbatim reporting in favor of the person concerned. This right protects various areas of personality and includes, for example, intimacy and privacy, the protection of reputation and honor, or the right to informational self-determination. The general right of personality of the person concerned must then be weighed up in the individual case against the interests of the reporter or the general public worthy of protection under the fundamental rights of the press, freedom of expression or artistic freedom. Depending on which fundamental right prevails in the specific case, the reporting is then permissible or impermissible. However, if there is an untrue factual assertion about a person that violates the right of personality of the person concerned, the right of personality has unrestricted priority, without the need for any weighing.
The special Art Copyright Act (KUG) applies to the publication of photos in Germany. According to Section 22 of the German Art Copyright Act, no photograph may be published or exhibited without the consent of the person depicted. However, an exception applies pursuant to Section 23 (1) No. 1 of the German Art Copyright Act (Kunsturhebergesetz ) for images from the field of contemporary history. For each individual case, it must be determined whether the person concerned is a so-called person of contemporary history. These can be, for example, politicians, athletes or celebrities. Photographs of persons of contemporary history may thus be published without consent, provided that a legitimate interest of the person depicted is not thereby violated.
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