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LONDON — Britain’s top court ruled Wednesday that OK! magazine is entitled to damages from a rival that published snatched photos of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ wedding.
A panel of judges in the House of Lords said Hello! magazine breached confidentiality by publishing secretly snapped pictures of the couple’s November 2000 nuptials. Douglas and Zeta-Jones had signed an exclusive $2 million deal with OK! to cover their lavish wedding at New York’s Plaza Hotel.
“Having paid 1 million pounds for an exclusive right it seems to me that OK! ought to be in a position to protect that right and to look to the law for redress were a third party intentionally to destroy it,” said Lord Brown, one of the judges.
The judges ruled in favor of OK! by a 3-2 margin.
However, they ruled that Hello!’s actions hadn’t harmed its rival’s business, meaning the magazines will each have to absorb millions of dollars in legal fees.
A High Court judge ruled in favor of OK! in November 2003, ordering Hello! to pay costs and damages of more than $4 million.
Hello! appealed, arguing that it had run its wedding pictures as a “spoiler” to its rival’s coverage — a common practice in journalism.
In 2005, the Court of Appeal agreed, overturning the costs and damages ruling and ordering OK! to pay back the money it had received.
On Wednesday, the Law Lords — judges who sit in the House of Lords and make up the country’s highest court — reinstated the damages ruling.
Zeta-Jones, 37, and Douglas, 62, who received $29,000 in damages from Hello! after the original trial, weren’t involved in the latest hearing.
During a dramatic six-week hearing at the High Court in 2003, Zeta-Jones said she had felt “violated” when Hello! published its “sleazy and unflattering” pictures.
She singled out an image that showed Douglas feeding her wedding cake, saying, “I don’t usually like my husband shoving a spoon down my throat to be photographed.”
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