Mitsubishi advert did not breach landowner's privacy, rules ASA

Out-Law News | 29 Apr 2008 | 2:46 pm | 1 min. read

A landowner who said that an advert depicting a car on his land invaded his privacy has had his claim rejected. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the land was not an identifiable possession of the man.

The advert that provoked the complaintMitsubishi published a print advert for one of its cars which depicted it sitting in a field with a tree-dotted hill in the background. The car had been digitally superimposed on the picture of the field, which was used without the landowner's permission.

He complained to the ASA that the use of the land without his permission infringed his privacy rights.

Mitsubishi owner Colt argued that the land was a public place and that it was entitled to use the photograph.

"[Mitsubishi] did not believe that the ad portrayed an identifiable possession and pointed out that the CAP Code allowed the use of general public locations without prior permission," said the ruling. "The distinctive features from the original [photograph], such as farm buildings and the landscape of the skyline, had been removed or retouched."

"They argued that, given the changes made to the photograph and the very small portion of land owned by the complainant that was visible, the field and not the hillside in the background, it was not generally recognisable from the finished ad," said the ruling, summarising Colt's position. "They further pointed out that a public footpath ran across the land, which they believed reinforced their view that the area shown was a public location.

The ASA rejected the landowner's complaint because the land was not identifiably his and its Code only prohibited the featuring of people or identifiable possessions without permission.

"We acknowledged that the complainant was concerned that the land used in the ad was easily identifiable and, therefore, his rights of privacy had been contravened," said the ASA. "While we appreciated that concern, we considered that, because only a relatively small amount of privately owned land was shown in the ad, it was not readily recognisable. We concluded that, in this case, the complainant's rights of privacy had not been infringed."

The owner of the pictured land had also complained that "the ad was likely to provoke violent or anti-social behaviour; he was concerned that others would assume that permission for the use of the land had been given for financial gain".

The ASA also rejected that complaint. "While we did not dismiss that concern lightly, we noted the efforts made by Colt to remove many of the distinguishing features and considered that readers would not readily recognise the complainant's land," it said. "In addition, we considered that even if a small number of readers did recognise the view in the photograph, it was unlikely to provoke the reaction the complainant feared."