European Court Issues a Judgment that May Have Sweeping Impact on Celebrity Lawsuits Against Media, Bloggers, and WebsitesPosted by William on Nov 2, 2011 in Art, Business Litigation, Business Transactions, Commercial Litigation, Commercial Transactions, Copyright, Entertainment, Film, Intellectual Property, Music, News, Sports, Television, Trademark | 0 comments
With the ever increasing reach of the internet and the speed at which website content can reach thousands, if not millions, of viewers throughout the world in a matter of minutes or hours, it is not surprising that this past Tuesday October 25, 2011 the European Court of Justice made a sweeping ruling that may greatly affect a celebrity’s publicity or privacy rights. The European Court found that content placed online “can be consulted by an indefinite number of Internet users worldwide” and thus causes an impact within the European Union.
The Court’s judgment was made in reference to two specific cases, one involved French Actor Olivier Martinez (who is reportedly currently in a relationship with American Actress Halle Berry) who filed a lawsuit against Mirror Group Newspapers, the publisher of the English tabloid Sunday Mirror, for the violation of his personality and privacy rights. The court’s ruling which expands the definition of a court’s jurisdiction and the forums where in a celebrity may file a lawsuit is favorable toward celebrities and likely to cause a stir in the entertainment industry.
In coming to its decision, the Court relied on constitutional precedent that establishes jurisdiction in “the place where the harmful event occurred or may occur.” Specifically, a Plaintiff must bring a “claim before the courts either of the defendant’s domicile or of the place where the publisher of the defamatory publication is established.”
The recent Court decision expands the constitutional precedent and embraces the fact that the internet has drastically changed how we view a court’s jurisdiction over a matter or, rather, where a plaintiff has been harmed and where he or she is required to file the lawsuit. The internet has allowed users worldwide to access content regardless of what audience the publisher of the content was looking to reach.
The Court stated “[i]t thus appears that the Internet reduces the usefulness of the criterion relating to distribution, in so far as the scope of the distribution of content placed online is in principle universal. Moreover, it is not always possible, on a technical level, to quantify that distribution with certainty and accuracy in relation to a particular Member State or, therefore, to assess the damage caused exclusively within that Member State.”
In other words, a plaintiff is no longer confined to bringing the lawsuit in the state where he or she lives. Instead, as long as the plaintiff is able to show he or she was damaged in the chosen jurisdiction by an online posting (of potentially damaging website content), the plaintiff may bring the lawsuit in that forum. The internet and its ability to spread information to millions of viewers instantaneously is blurring the lines of court jurisdiction. Given the ever increasing presence of the internet in our daily lives, it is likely this is only the beginning.