Case of European Court of Human Rights, July 23, 2009 (case Hachette Filipacchi Associés (Ici Paris) v. France)

Resolution Date:July 23, 2009

Violation of Art. 10 Pecuniary damage - award


Information Note on the Court’s case-law No. 121

July 2009

Hachette Filipacchi Associés (Ici Paris) v. France - 12268/03

Judgment 23.7.2009 [Section V]

Article 10

Article 10-1

Freedom of expression

Award of damages against magazine for publishing information that had been freely divulged and made public by a singer: violation

Facts: The applicant company, Hachette Filipacchi Associés, publishes the weekly magazine Ici Paris, which published an article about singer Johnny Hallyday, illustrated by four photographs, one showing him on stage and the others being advertising material for products with which he had allowed his name and image to be associated. The article focused on financial difficulties which had allegedly obliged the singer to cash in on his image, with little hope of repaying his debts. The singer took action against the applicant company, which was ordered, on appeal, to pay 20,000 euros in damages.

Law: The fact that the applicant company was ordered to pay damages amounted to an interference with its freedom of expression. The interference had been prescribed by law and there were legal precedents concerning the right to one’s image of which the applicant company, an informed professional publisher in the press sector, must have been aware. Furthermore, the interference had pursued a legitimate aim, namely the protection of the rights of others, in this case the plaintiff’s right to respect for his private life. As to whether it had been proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued, the offending article and the accompanying photos, which focused on the singer’s alleged financial difficulties and the way he exploited his name and image, could not be regarded as having taken part in or contributed to a debate on a matter of general interest to the community in keeping with the Court’s case-law. That being so, the respondent State enjoyed a broader margin of appreciation. The national courts had found that the applicant company had violated the plaintiff’s right to his image on the grounds that the publication of the photographs without his consent had not been consistent with the purpose of advertising for which he had allowed his image to be used. The misuse of a photograph for a purpose other than that for which a person had specifically authorised its reproduction could be considered sufficient grounds for restricting freedom of expression. However, that finding alone did not suffice to justify the award against the...

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