Madonna wins payout over publication of wedding photos

Out-Law News | 06 Oct 2009 | 3:15 pm | 1 min. read

Pop star Madonna has accepted damages for breach of her privacy and of copyright from a newspaper which published photographs of her wedding in the aftermath of the announcement of her divorce.

The photographs were taken in 2000 but published in 2008 when it was announced that the American singer would divorce British film director Guy Ritchie. Mail on Sunday publisher Associated Newspapers has agreed to pay Madonna undisclosed damages, according to news agency the Press Association. It reported that the action has been settled at the High Court.

The photographs were the only ones taken at the wedding at Skibo Castle in 2000 and were kept in a photograph album by Madonna. An interior designer copied pictures from that album, Madonna's lawyer is reported to have said.

Those pictures were offered for sale to the Mail on Sunday by an intermediary in June 2008. The newspaper did not publish them until October of that year, when Madonna's divorce was announced.

PA reported that Associated Newspapers accepted that it had behaved wrongly and accepted that it had invaded her privacy and infringed her copyright.

The paper published 10 of the 27 photos that were copied from Madonna's album. It said that it had destroyed all copies of the photos in its possession.

Photographs of celebrity weddings have led to legal disputes in the past. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas won a landmark ruling in 2003 when a magazine published unauthorised pictures of their wedding on the same day as the magazine to which they had sold the right to publish their wedding pictures.

Though the High Court said that their right to privacy had not been breached, it did say that the publication of the paparazzo-snapped images breached their rights to commercial confidence.

That ruling was appealed and was eventually backed by the House of Lords.

In that ruling, Lord Hoffman wrote: "The point of which one should never lose sight is that OK! had paid £1m for the benefit of the obligation of confidence imposed upon all those present at the wedding in respect of any photographs of the wedding. That was quite clear."

He continued: "Unless there is some conceptual or policy reason why they should not have the benefit of that obligation, I cannot see why they were not entitled to enforce it. And in my opinion there are no such reasons. Provided that one keeps one’s eye firmly on the money and why it was paid, the case is, as [initial High Court judge] Lindsay J held, quite straightforward."