It is not often that we criticize a judgement from the court because, after all, we live in a state of rules and regulation that we must observe in order to remain a civilized culture. If wasn’t for the Law there would be chaos.
This judgment comes from France. In the wake of the Kate Middletton semi naked pictures, published recently in a French magazine called Closer, a French judge has issued a ruling stating that among other things, they ( the magazine Closer) could not distribute these images anywhere, especially on tablets he specifies, and that all photographs must be returned to the royal family immediately. Failure to comply will cost the magazine 10,000 euros per day.
Beyond the ethical debate of whether it is right to take and publish those photographs which should be left to those who have an extra dose of morals to service to others, there is the unbearable fact that this judge has been living under rocks for the last, what ? 20 years at least.
First, these images were taken by independent photographers working either alone or with a photo agency. Thus the magazine cannot control their distribution since they only purchased a limited license.
Second, this is the XXI century. Once images are out there, even in print format, they are immediately reposted and shared at impressive speed. And that’s just for cat pictures. Just imagine when its a nude princess. While the photo industry would love to have control over this process, it is far from achievable.
Third, why tablets? Has the judge recently discovered the ipad and wants to sound in the know ?
And finally, my favorite, return what exactly. Digital files? Prints of the digitals files ? How will that help in any way since there must be hundred of thousands of copies right now ?
The judge explains his ruling by saying that these images were not newsworthy and were not a news items. Again, if he had just opened his browser in the last week or so, he would have not escape a mention of these images. They might have not depicted a news event, they became the news.
The French special police usually in charge of bank robberies is now in charge of finding the photographers and building charges against them. Quite certainly because a prime minister called another one and asked them to clean up this mess.
Let’s assume that these photographs were taken legally from a public place. What if they were of the French president meeting with a notorious neo nazi ? Or the prime minister of France receiving a check from Iran’s president? Would they to be subject to that much persecution ?
Quite frankly, beside embarrassment, which will last a week or two in the internet age, these images do no harm. They show a loving couple spending them together in the summer sun. For those who are unaware, most women are bare chested on French beaches since the 80’s and ads on public tv have no problem showing full frontal half naked women. Thus, this is really not a surprise for French viewers. However, it is for a cranky French judge who is completely out of touch with the realities of modern photography and should ban himself from ever talking publicly. Because when he does, it is hurtful embarrassment.