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European Court of Human Rights
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> European Court of Human Rights >> VON HANNOVER v. GERMANY - 59320/00  ECHR 294 (24 June 2004)
Cite as: (2005) 40 EHRR 1, 40 EHRR 1, 16 BHRC 545,  40 EHRR 1,  EMLR 21,  ECHR 294
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CASE OF VON HANNOVER v. GERMANY
(Application no. 59320/00)
24 June 2004
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of von Hannover v. Germany,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Mr I. CABRAL BARRETO, President,
Mr G. RESS,
Mr L. CAFLISCH
Mr R. TüRMEN
Mr B. ZUPANčIč,
Mr J. HEDIGAN,
Mr K. TRAJA, judges,
and Mr V. BERGER, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 6 November 2003 and on 3 June 2004,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the last-mentioned date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 59320/00) against the Federal Republic of Germany lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a national of Monaco, Caroline von Hannover
(“the applicant”), on 6 June 2000.
2. The applicant alleged that the German court decisions in her case had infringed her right to respect for her private and family life as guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention.
3. The application was allocated to the Fourth Section of the Court (Rule 52 § 1 of the Rules of Court). Within that Section, the Chamber that would consider the case (Article 27 § 1 of the Convention) was constituted as provided in Rule 26 § 1.
4. On 1 November 2001 the Court changed the composition of its Sections (Rule 25 § 1). This case was assigned to the newly composed Third Section (Rule 52 § 1).
5. By a decision of 8 July 2003, the Chamber declared the application admissible.
6. The applicant and the Government each filed observations on the merits (Rule 59 § 1). In addition, comments were received from the Association of German Magazine Publishers (Verband deutscher Zeitschriftenverleger) and from Hubert Burda Media GmbH & Co.KG, which had been given leave by the President to intervene in the written procedure (Article 36 § 2 of the Convention and Rule 44 § 2). The applicant replied to those comments (Rule 44 § 5).
7. A hearing took place in public in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 6 November 2003 (Rule 59 § 3).
There appeared before the Court:
(a) for the Government
Mr K. STOLTENBERG, Ministerialdirigent, Agent,
Mr A. OHLY, Professor of civil law at Bayreuth University, Counsel,
Mrs A. LAITENBERGER, executive assistant to the Agent, Adviser;
(b) for the applicant
Mr M. PRINZ, lawyer, Counsel,
Ms C. MOFFAT, lawyer,
Mr A. TOUCAS, lawyer, Advisers.
The Court heard addresses by Mr Prinz and Mr Stoltenberg and Mr Ohly.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
8. The applicant, who is the eldest daugher of Prince Rainier III
of Monaco, was born in 1957. Her official residence is in Monaco but she lives in the Paris area most of the time.
As a member of Prince Rainier's family, the applicant is the president of certain humanitarian or cultural foundations, such as the “Princess Grace” foundation or the “Prince Pierre de Monaco” foundation, and also represents the ruling family at events such as the Red Cross Ball or the opening of the International Circus Festival. She does not, however, perform any function within or on behalf of the State of Monaco or one of its institutions.
A. Background to the case
9. Since the early 1990s the applicant has been trying – often through the courts – in a number of European countries to prevent the publication of photos about her private life in the tabloid press.
10. The photos that were the subject of the proceedings described below were published by the publishing company Burda in the German magazines
Bunte and Freizeit Revue and by the publishing company Heinrich Bauer in the German magazine Neue Post.
1. The first series of photos
(a) The five photos of the applicant published in Freizeit Revue magazine (edition no. 30 of 22 July 1993)
11. These photos show her with the actor Vincent Lindon at the far end of a restaurant courtyard in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The first page of the magazine refers to “the tenderest photos of her romance with Vincent”
(“die zärtlichsten Fotos Ihrer Romanze mit Vincent”) and the photos themselves bear the caption “these photos are evidence of the tenderest romance of our time” (“diese Fotos sind der Beweis für die zärtlichste Romanze unserer Zeit”).
(b) The two photos of the applicant published in Bunte magazine (edition no. 32 of 5 August 1993)
12. The first photo shows her on horseback with the caption “Caroline and the blues. Her life is a novel with innumerable misfortunes, says the author Roig” (“Caroline und die Melancholie. Ihr Leben ist ein Roman mit unzähligen Unglücken, sagt Autor Roig“).
The second photo shows her with her children Peter and Andrea.
The photos are part of an article entitled “I don't think I could be a man's ideal wife” (“ich glaube nicht, dass ich die ideale Frau für einen Mann sein kann”).
(c) The seven photos of the applicant published in Bunte magazine (edition no. 34 of 19 August 1993)
13. The first photo shows her canoeing with her daughter Charlotte,
the second shows her son Andrea with a bunch of flowers in his arms.
The third photo shows her doing her shopping with a bag slung over her shoulder, the fourth with Vincent Lindon in a restaurant and the fifth alone on a bicycle.
The sixth photo shows her with Vincent Lindon and her son Pierre.
The seventh photo shows her doing her shopping at the market, accompanied by her bodyguard.
The article is entitled “Pure happiness” (“vom einfachen Glück”).
2. The second series of photos
(a) The ten photos of the applicant published in Bunte magazine (edition no. 10 of 27 February 1997)
14. These photos show the applicant on a skiing holiday in Zürs/Arlberg. The accompanying article is entitled “Caroline ... a woman returns to life” (“Caroline...eine Frau kehrt ins Leben zurück”).
(b) The eleven photos of the applicant published in Bunte magazine (edition no. 12 of 13 March 1997)
15. Seven photos show her with Prince Ernst August von Hannover visiting a horse show in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The accompanying article is entitled “The kiss. Or: they are not hiding anymore” (“Der Kuss. Oder: jetzt verstecken sie sich nicht mehr”).
Four other photos show her leaving her house in Paris with the caption “Out and about with Princess Caroline in Paris” (“Mit Prinzessin Caroline unterwegs in Paris”).
(c) The seven photos of the applicant published in Bunte magazine (edition no. 16 of 10 April 1997)
16. These photos show the applicant on the front page with Prince Ernst August von Hannover and on the inside pages of the magazine playing tennis with him or both putting their bicycles down.
3. The third series of photos
17. The sequence of photos published in Neue Post magazine (edition no. 35/97) shows the applicant at the Monte Carlo Beach Club, dressed in a swimsuit and wrapped up in a bathing towel, tripping over an obstacle and falling down. The photos, which are quite blurred, are accompanied by an article entitled “Prince Ernst August played fisticuffs and Princess Caroline fell flat on her face” (“Prinz Ernst August haute auf den Putz und Prinzessin Caroline fiel auf die Nase”).
B. The proceedings in the German courts
1. The first set of proceedings
(a) Judgment of the Hamburg Regional Court of 4 February 1993
18. On 13 August 1993 the applicant sought an injunction in the Hamburg Regional Court (Landgericht) against any further publication by
the Burda publishing company of the first series of photos on the ground that they infringed her right to protection of her personality rights (Persönlichkeitsrecht) guaranteed by sections 2(1) and 1(1) of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) and her right to protection of her private life and to the control of the use of her image guaranteed by sections 22 et seq. of the Copyright (Arts Domain) Act (Kunsturhebergesetz – “the Copyright Act” – see paragraphs 43-44 below).
19. In a judgment of 4 February 1993 the Regional Court granted the application only in respect of the distribution of the magazines in France, in accordance with the rules of private international law (section 38 of the Introductory Act to the Civil Code – Einführungsgesetz in das bürgerliche Gesetzbuch) read in conjunction with Article 9 of the French Civil Code.
With regard to the distribution of the magazines in Germany, however, the Regional Court reiterated that it was German law which applied. Under section 23(1) no.1 of the Copyright Act, the applicant, as a figure of contemporary society “par excellence” (eine “absolute” Person der Zeitgeschichte) had to tolerate this kind of publication.
The Regional Court held that she had failed to establish a legitimate interest (berechtigtes Interesse) justifying an injunction against further publication because, where figures of contemporary society “par excellence” were concerned, the right to protection of private life stopped at their front door. All the photos of the applicant had been taken exclusively in public places.
(b) Judgment of the Hamburg Court of Appeal of 8 December 1994
20. The applicant appealed against that judgment.
21. In a judgment of 8 December 1994 the Hamburg Court of Appeal (Oberlandesgericht) dismissed the applicant's appeal and set aside the injunction against subsequent publications in France.
Indeed, like the Regional Court, the Court of Appeal found that the applicant was a contemporary figure “par excellence” and therefore had to tolerate publication without her consent of the photos in question, which had all been taken in public places. Even if the constant hounding by photographers made her daily life difficult, it arose from a legitimate desire to inform the general public.
(c) Judgment of the Federal Court of Justice of 19 December 1995
22. The applicant appealed on points of law against that judgment.
23. In a judgment of 19 December 1995 the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) allowed the applicant's appeal in part, granting her an injunction against any further publication of the photos that had appeared in Freizeit Revue magazine (30th edition of 22 July 1993) showing her with Vincent Lindon in a restaurant courtyard on the ground that the photos interfered with her right to respect for her private life.
The Federal Court held that even figures of contemporary society
“par excellence” were entitled to respect for their private life and that this was not limited to their home but also covered the publication of photos. Outside their home, however, they could not rely on the protection of their privacy unless they had retired to a secluded place – away from the public eye (in eine örtliche Abgeschiedenheit) – where it was objectively clear to everyone that they wanted to be alone and where, confident of being away from prying eyes, they behaved in a given situation in a manner in which they would not behave in a public place. Unlawful interference with the protection of that privacy could therefore be made out if photos were published that had been taken secretly and/or by catching unawares a person who had retired to such a place. That was the position here, where the applicant and her boyfriend had withdrawn to the far end of a restaurant courtyard with the clear aim of being out of the public eye.
However, the Federal Court dismissed the remainder of her appeal on the ground that, as a figure of contemporary society “par excellence”, the applicant had to tolerate the publication of photos in which she appeared in a public place even if they were photos of scenes from her daily life and not photos showing her exercising her official functions. The public had a legitimate interest in knowing where the applicant was staying and how she behaved in public.
(d) Judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court of 15 December 1999
24. The applicant then appealed to the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) submitting that there had been an infringement of her right to the protection of her personality rights (section 2(1) read in conjunction with section 1(1) of the Basic Law).
In the applicant's submission, the criteria established by the Federal Court of Justice regarding the protection of privacy in respect of photos taken in public places did not effectively protect the free development of the personality, be it in the context of private life or family life. Those criteria were so narrow that in practice the applicant could be photographed at any time outside her home and the photos subsequently published in the media.
Given that the photos were not used genuinely to inform people, but merely to entertain them, the right to control the use of one's image in respect of scenes from private life, which had been recognised by the case-law of the Federal Constitutional Court, prevailed over the right – also guaranteed by the Basic Law – to freedom of the press.
25. In a landmark judgment of 15 December 1999, delivered after a hearing, the Constitutional Court allowed the applicant's appeal in part on
the ground that the three photos that had appeared in the 32nd and 34th editions of Bunte magazine, dated 5 August 1993 and 19 August 1993, featuring the applicant with her children had infringed her right to the protection of her personality rights guaranteed by sections 2(1) and 1(1) of the Basic Law, reinforced by her right to family protection under section 6 of the Basic Law. It referred the case to the Federal Court of Justice on that point. However, the Constitutional Court dismissed the applicant's appeal regarding the other photos.
The relevant extract of the judgment reads as follows:
“The appeal is well-founded in part.
The decisions being appealed do not fully satisfy the requirements of section 2(1) read in conjunction with section 1(1) of the Basic Law.
1. The provisions of sections 22 and 23 of the KUG (Kunsturhebergesetz – Copyright Act) on which the civil courts based their decisions in the present case are, however, compatible with the Basic Law.
Under section 2(1) of the Basic Law general personality rights are guaranteed only within the framework of the constitutional order. The provisions concerning the publication of photographical representations of persons listed in sections 22 and 23 of the KUG are part of that constitutional order. They derive from an incident which at the time caused a scandal (photos of Bismarck on his deathbed ... ) and from the ensuing politico-legal debate sparked by this incident ... , they aim to strike a fair balance between respect for personality rights and the community's interest in being informed ... .
Under section 22, first sentence, of the KUG pictures can only be disseminated or exposed to the public eye with the express approval of the person represented. Pictures relating to contemporary society are excluded from that rule under section 23(1) of the KUG ... . Under 23(2) of the KUG, however, that exception does not apply where the dissemination interferes with a legitimate interest of the person represented. The protection by degrees under these rules ensures that they take account of both the need to protect the person being represented and the community's desire to be informed and the interest of the media which satisfy that desire. That much has already been established by the Federal Constitutional Court ... .
(b) In the instant case regard must be had, in interpreting and applying sections 22 and 23 of the KUG, not only to general personality rights, but also to the freedom of the press guaranteed by section 5(1), second sentence, of the Basic Law in so far as the provisions in question also affect those freedoms.
The fact that the press fulfils the function of forming public opinion does not exclude entertainment from the functional guarantee under the Basic Law. The formation of opinions and entertainment are not opposites. Entertainment also plays a role in the formation of opinions. It can sometimes even stimulate or influence the formation of opinions more than purely factual information. Moreover, there is a growing tendency in the media to do away with the distinction between information and entertainment both as regards press coverage generally and individual contributions, and to disseminate information in the form of entertainment or mix it with entertainment (“infotainment”). Consequently, many readers obtain information they consider to be important or interesting from entertaining coverage ... .
Nor can mere entertainment be denied any role in the formation of opinions. That would amount to unilaterally presuming that entertainment merely satisfies a desire for amusement, relaxation, escapism or diversion. Entertainment can also convey images of reality and propose subjects for debate that spark a process of discussion and assimilation relating to philosophies of life, values and behaviour models. In that respect it fulfils important social functions ... . When measured against the aim of protecting press freedom, entertainment in the press is neither negligible nor entirely worthless and therefore falls within the scope of application of fundamental rights ... .
The same is true of information about people. Personalization is an important journalistic means of attracting attention. Very often it is this which first arouses interest in a problem and stimulates a desire for factual information. Similarly, interest in a particular event or situation is usually stimulated by personalised accounts. Additionally, celebrities embody certain moral values and lifestyles. Many people base their choice of lifestyle on their example. They become points of crystallisation for adoption or rejection and act as examples or counter-examples. This is what explains the public interest in the various ups and downs occurring in their lives.
As regards politicians this public interest has always been deemed to be legitimate from the point of view of transparency and democratic control. Nor can it in principle be disputed that it exists in respect of other public figures. To that extent it is the function of the press to show people in situations that are not limited to specific functions or events and this also falls within the sphere of protection of press freedom. It is only when a balancing exercise has to be done between competing personality rights that an issue arises as to whether matters of essential interest for the public are at issue and treated seriously and objectively or whether private matters, designed merely to satisfy the public's curiosity, are being disseminated ... .
(c) The decision of the Federal Court of Justice largely stands up to an examination of its compatibility with the constitutional rules.
(aa) The Federal Court of Justice cannot be criticised under constitutional law for assessing the conditions of application (Tatbestandsvoraussetzungen) of section 23(1) no. 1 of the KUG according to the criterion of the community's interest in being informed and deciding on that basis that the photos showing the applicant outside her representative function in the Principality of Moncao were lawful.
Under section 23(1) no. 1 of the KUG the publication of pictures portraying an aspect of contemporary society are exempted from the obligation to obtain the consent of the person concerned within the meaning of section 22 of the KUG. Judging from the drafting history to the Act ... and from the meaning and purpose of the words used, the provision in question takes into consideration the community's interest in being informed and the freedom of the press. Accordingly, the interpretation of this element (Tatbestandsmerkmal) must take account of the interests of the public. Pictures
of people who are of no significance in contemporary society should not be made freely accessible to the public: they require the prior consent of the person concerned. The other element that is affected by fundamental rights, that of a “legitimate interest” for the purposes of section 23(2) of the KUG, concerns only – and this must be stressed at the outset – figures of contemporary society and cannot therefore take sufficient account of the interests of the freedom of the press if these have previously been neglected when the circle of the persons concerned was defined.
It is in keeping with the importance and scope of the freedom of the press, and not unreasonably restrictive of the protection of personality rights, that the concept
of contemporary society referred to in section 23(1) no. 1 of the KUG should not only cover, in accordance with a definition given by the courts, events of historical or political significance, but be defined on the basis of the public interest in being informed ... . The kernel of press freedom and the free formation of opinions requires the press to have sufficient margin of manoeuvre to allow it to decide, in accordance with its publishing criteria, what the public interest demands and the process
of forming opinion to establish what amounts to a matter of public interest. As has been stated, entertaining coverage is no exception to these principles.
Nor should the Federal Court of Justice be criticised for including in the “domain
of contemporary society”, within the meaning of section 23(1) no. 1 of the KUG, pictures of people who have not only aroused public interest at a certain point on the occasion of a particular historical event but who, on account of their status and importance, attract the public's attention in general and not just on the odd occasion. Account should also be taken in this regard of the fact that, compared to the situation at the time the Copyright Act was passed, increased importance is given today
to illustrated information. The concept of a “figure of contemporary society
par excellence” (absolute Person der Zeitgeschichte), often employed in this respect in the case-law and legal theory, does not conclusively derive from statute or the Constitution. If, as was done by the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court of Justice, it is interpreted as a shortened expression designating people whose image is deemed by the public to be worthy of respect out of consideration for the people concerned,
it is irreproachable from the point of view of constitutional law at least as long as
a balancing exercise is carried out, in the light of the circumstances of the case, between the public's interest in being informed and the legitimate interests of the person concerned.
General personality rights do not require publications that are not subject to prior consent to be limited to pictures of figures of contemporary society in the exercise
of their function in society. Very often the public interest aroused by such figures does not relate exclusively to the exercise of their function in the strict sense. It can, on the contrary, by virtue of the particular function and its impact, extend to information about the way in which these figures behave generally – that is, also outside their function – in public. The public has a legitimate interest in being allowed to judge whether the personal behaviour of the individuals in question, who are often regarded as idols or role models, convincingly tallies with their behaviour on their official engagements.
If, on the other hand, the right to publish pictures of people considered to be figures of contemporary society were to be limited to their official functions, insufficient account would be taken of the public interest properly aroused by such figures and this would, moreover, favour a selective presentation that would deprive the public
of certain necessary judgmental possibilities in respect of figures of socio-political life, having regard to the function of role model of such figures and the influence they exert. The press is not, however, allowed to use any picture of figures of contemporary society. On the contrary, section 23(2) of the KUG gives the courts adequate opportunity to apply the protective provisions of section 2(1) read in conjunction with section 1(1) of the Basic Law ... .
(bb) In theory the criteria established by the Federal Court of Justice for interpreting the concept of “legitimate interest” used in section 23(2) of the KUG are irreproachable from the point of view of constitutional law.
According to the decision being appealed, the privacy meriting protection that must also be afforded to “figures of contemporary society par excellence” presupposes that they have retired to a secluded place with the objectively perceptible aim of being alone and in which, confident of being alone, they behave differently from how they would behave in public. The Federal Court of Justice accepted that there had been
a breach of sections 22 and 23 of the KUG where this type of picture was taken secretly or by catching the person unawares.
The criterion of a secluded place takes account of the aim, pursued by the general right to protection of personality rights, of allowing the individual a sphere, including outside the home, in which he does not feel himself to be the subject of permanent public attention – and relieves him of the obligation of behaving accordingly – and in which he can relax and enjoy some peace and quiet. This criterion does not excessively restrict press freedom because it does not impose a blanket ban on pictures of the daily or private life of figures of contemporary society, but allows them to be shown where they have appeared in public. In the event of an overriding public interest in being informed, the freedom of the press can even, in accordance with that case-law authority, be given priority over the protection of the private sphere ... .
The Federal Court of Justice properly held that it is legitimate to draw conclusions from the behaviour adopted in a given situation by an individual who is clearly in
a secluded spot. However, the protection against dissemination of photos taken in that context does not only apply where the individual behaves in a manner in which he would not behave in public. On the contrary, the development of the personality cannot be properly protected unless, irrespective of their behaviour, the individual has a space in which he or she can relax without having to tolerate the presence of photographers or cameramen. That is not in issue here, however, since, according to the findings on which the Federal Court of Justice based its decision, the first of the conditions to which protection of private life is subject has not been met.
Lastly, there is nothing unconstitutional, when balancing the public interest in being informed against the protection of private life, in attaching importance to the method used to obtain the information in question ... . It is doubtful, however, that the mere fact of photographing the person secretly or catching them unawares can be deemed to infringe their privacy outside the home. Having regard to the function attributed to that privacy under constitutional law and to the fact that it is usually impossible to determine from a photo whether the person has been photographed secretly or caught unawares, the existence of unlawful interference with that privacy cannot in any case be made out merely because the photo was taken in those conditions. As, however, the Federal Court of Justice has already established in respect of the photographs in question that the appellant was not in a secluded place, the doubts expressed above have no bearing on the review of its decision.
(cc) However, the constitutional requirements have not been satisfied in so far as the decisions of which the appellant complains did not take account of the fact that the right to protection of personality rights of a person in the appellant's situation is strengthened by section 6 of the Basic Law regarding that person's intimate relations with their children.
(dd) The following conclusions can be drawn from the foregoing considerations with regard to the photographs in question:
The decision of the Federal Court of Justice cannot be criticised under constitutional law regarding the photos of the appellant at a market, doing her market shopping accompanied by her bodyguard or dining with a male companion at a well-attended restaurant. The first two cases concerned an open location frequented by the general public. The third case admittedly concerned a well circumscribed location, spatially speaking, but one in which the appellant was exposed to the other people present.
It is for this reason, moreover, that the Federal Court of Justice deemed it legitimate
to ban photos showing the applicant in a restaurant garden, which were the subject of the decision being appealed but are not the subject of the constitutional appeal.
The presence of the applicant and her companion there presented all the features of seclusion. The fact that the photographs in question were evidently taken from
a distance shows that the applicant could legitimately have assumed that she was not exposed to public view.
Nor can the decision being appealed be criticised regarding the photos of the applicant alone on horseback or riding a bicycle. In the Federal Court of Justice's view, the appellant had not been in a secluded place, but in a public one. That finding cannot attract criticism under constitutional law. The applicant herself describes the photos in question as belonging to the intimacy of her private sphere merely because they manifest her desire to be alone. In accordance with the criteria set out above, the mere desire of the person concerned is not relevant in any way.
The three photos of the applicant with her children require a fresh examination, however, in the light of the constitutional rules set out above. We cannot rule out the possibility that the review that needs to be carried out in the light of the relevant criteria will lead to a different result for one or other or all the photos. The decision must therefore be set aside in that respect and remitted to the Federal Court of Justice for a fresh decision.
(d) The decisions of the Regional Court and the Court of Appeal resulted in
a violation of fundamental rights by limiting to the home the privacy protected by section 2(1) read in conjunction with section 1(1) of the Basic Law in accordance, moreover, with a rationale that was in keeping with the case-law at the time.
The decisions in question do not need to be set aside, however, since the violation complained of has been remedied in part by the Federal Court of Justice and the remainder of the case remitted to that court.
(e) Sequel to the proceedings
26. Following the remittal of the case to the Federal Court of Justice in connection with the three photos that had appeared in Bunte magazine (edition no. 32 of 5 August 1993 and no. 34 of 19 August 1993) showing the applicant with her children, Burda publishers undertook not to republish the photos (Unterlassungserklärung).
2. The second set of proceedings
(a) Judgment of the Hamburg Regional Court of 26 September 1997
27. On 14 May 1997 the applicant reapplied to the Hamburg Regional Court for an injunction preventing Burda publishers from republishing the second series of photos on the ground that they breached her right to protection of her personality rights guaranteed by sections 2(1) and 1(1) of the Basic Law and her right to protection of her private life and the right to control the use of her image guaranteed by sections 22 et seq. of the Copyright Act.
28. In a judgment of 26 September 1997 the Hamburg Regional Court dismissed the appeal, referring in particular to the grounds of the Federal Court of Justice's judgment of 19 December 1995.
(b) Judgment of the Hamburg Court of Appeal of 10 March 1998
29. The applicant appealed against that judgment.
30. In a judgment of 10 March 1998 the Hamburg Court of Appeal also dismissed the applicant's appeal for the same reasons.
(c) Decision of the Federal Constitutional Court of 4 April 2000
31. As the Court of Appeal did not grant leave to appeal on points of law to the Federal Court of Justice, the applicant lodged a constitutional appeal directly with the Federal Constitutional Court relying on her earlier submissions.
32. In a decision of 4 April 2000 the Federal Constitutional Court, ruling as a panel of three judges, refused to entertain the appeal. It referred in particular to the Federal Court of Justice's judgment of 19 December 1995 and to its own landmark judgment of 15 December 1999.
3. The third set of proceedings
(a) Judgment of the Hamburg Regional Court of 24 April 1998
33. On 5 November 1997 the applicant reapplied to the Hamburg Regional Court for an injunction preventing Heinrich Bauer publishers from republishing the third series of photos on the ground that they infringed her right to the protection of her personality rights, guaranteed by sections 2(1) and 1(1) of the Basic Law, and the right to protection of her private life and to the control of the use of her image, guaranteed by sections 22 et seq. of the Copyright (Arts Domain) Act.
The applicant submitted, among other things, a sworn attestation by the director of the Monte Carlo Beach Club to the effect that the swimming baths in question were a private establishment, access to which was subject to a high fee and strictly controlled and from which journalists and photographers were debarred unless they had the express permission of the owner of the establishment. The fact that the photos were very blurred showed that they had been taken secretly, at a distance of several hundred metres, from the window or roof of a neighbouring house.
34. In a judgment of 24 April 1998 the Hamburg Regional Court dismissed the applicant's appeal, referring in particular to the grounds of the Federal Court of Justice's judgment of 19 December 1995. The court stated that the Monte Carlo Beach Club had to be considered as an open-air swimming pool that was open to the public even if an entry fee was charged and access restricted.
(b) Judgment of the Hamburg Court of Appeal of 13 October 1998
35. The applicant appealed against that judgment.
36. In a judgment of 13 October 1998 the Hamburg Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal for the same reasons.
The Court of Appeal found that a swimming pool or beach was not a secluded place and that the photos showing the applicant tripping over an obstacle and falling down were not such as to denigrate or demean her in the public's eyes.
(c) The decision of the Federal Constitutional Court of 13 April 2000
37. As the Court of Appeal did not grant the applicant leave to appeal on points of law to the Federal Court of Justice, the applicant lodged a constitutional appeal directly with the Federal Constitutional Court on the basis of her earlier submissions.
38. In a decision of 13 April 2000 the Federal Constitutional Court, ruling as a panel of three judges, refused to entertain the appeal, referring in particular to the Federal Court of Justice's judgment of 19 December 1995 and to its own landmark judgment of 15 December 1999.
The Constitutional Court held that the ordinary courts had properly found that the Monte Carlo Beach Club was not a secluded place and that the photos of the applicant wearing a swimsuit and falling down were not capable of constituting an infringement of her right to respect for her private life.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC AND EUROPEAN LAW
A. The Basic Law
39. The relevant provisions of the Basic Law are worded as follows:
“The dignity of human beings is inviolable. All public authorities have a duty to respect and protect it.”
“Everyone shall have the right to the free development of their personality provided that they do not interfere with the rights of others or violate the constitutional order or moral law (Sittengesetz).”
“(1) Everyone shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his or her opinions in speech, writing and pictures and freely to obtain information from generally accessible sources. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting on the radio and in films shall be guaranteed. There shall be no censorship.
(2) These rights shall be subject to the limitations laid down by the provisions of the general laws and by statutory provisions aimed at protecting young people and to the obligation to respect personal honour (Recht der persönlichen Ehre).”
Section 6(1) and (2)
“(1) Marriage and the family enjoy the special protection of the State.
(2) The care and upbringing of children is the natural right of parents and a duty primarily incumbent on them. The State community shall oversee the performance of that duty.”
B. The Copyright (Arts Domain) Act
40. Section 22(1) of the Copyright (Arts Domain) Act provides that images can only be disseminated with the express approval of the person concerned.
41. Section 23(1) no. 1 of that Act provides for exceptions to that rule, particularly where the images portray an aspect of contemporary society (Bildnisse aus dem Bereich der Zeitgeschichte) on condition that publication does not interfere with a legitimate interest (berechtigtes Interesse) of the person concerned (section 23(2)).
C. Resolution 1165 (1998) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the right to privacy
42. The full text of this resolution, adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly on 26 June 1998, is worded as follows:
“1. The Assembly recalls the current affairs debate it held on the right to privacy during its September 1997 session, a few weeks after the accident which cost the Princess of Wales her life.
2. On that occasion, some people called for the protection of privacy, and in particular that of public figures, to be reinforced at the European level by means of a convention, while others believed that privacy was sufficiently protected by national legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights, and that freedom of expression should not be jeopardised.
3. In order to explore the matter further, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights organised a hearing in Paris on 16 December 1997 with the participation of public figures or their representatives and the media.
4. The right to privacy, guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, has already been defined by the Assembly in the declaration on mass communication media and human rights, contained within Resolution 428 (1970), as “the right to live one's own life with a minimum of interference”.
5. In view of the new communication technologies which make it possible to store and use personal data, the right to control one's own data should be added to this definition.
6. The Assembly is aware that personal privacy is often invaded, even in countries with specific legislation to protect it, as people's private lives have become a highly lucrative commodity for certain sectors of the media. The victims are essentially public figures, since details of their private lives serve as a stimulus to sales. At the same time, public figures must recognise that the special position they occupy in society - in many cases by choice - automatically entails increased pressure on their privacy.
7. Public figures are persons holding public office and/or using public resources and, more broadly speaking, all those who play a role in public life, whether in politics, the economy, the arts, the social sphere, sport or in any other domain.
8. It is often in the name of a one-sided interpretation of the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, that the media invade people's privacy, claiming that their readers are entitled to know everything about public figures.
9. Certain facts relating to the private lives of public figures, particularly politicians, may indeed be of interest to citizens, and it may therefore be legitimate for readers, who are also voters, to be informed of those facts.
10. It is therefore necessary to find a way of balancing the exercise of two fundamental rights, both of which are guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights: the right to respect for one's private life and the right to freedom of expression.
11. The Assembly reaffirms the importance of every person's right to privacy, and of the right to freedom of expression, as fundamental to a democratic society. These rights are neither absolute nor in any hierarchical order, since they are of equal value.
12. However, the Assembly points out that the right to privacy afforded by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights should not only protect an individual against interference by public authorities, but also against interference by private persons or institutions, including the mass media.
13. The Assembly believes that, since all member states have now ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, and since many systems of national legislation comprise provisions guaranteeing this protection, there is no need to propose that a new convention guaranteeing the right to privacy should be adopted.
14. The Assembly calls upon the governments of the member states to pass legislation, if no such legislation yet exists, guaranteeing the right to privacy containing the following guidelines, or if such legislation already exists, to supplement it with these guidelines:
(i) the possibility of taking an action under civil law should be guaranteed, to enable a victim to claim possible damages for invasion of privacy;
(ii) editors and journalists should be rendered liable for invasions of privacy by their publications, as they are for libel;
(iii) when editors have published information that proves to be false, they should be required to publish equally prominent corrections at the request of those concerned;
(iv) economic penalties should be envisaged for publishing groups which systematically invade people's privacy;
(v) following or chasing persons to photograph, film or record them, in such
a manner that they are prevented from enjoying the normal peace and quiet they expect in their private lives or even such that they are caused actual physical harm, should be prohibited;
(vi) a civil action (private lawsuit) by the victim should be allowed against
a photographer or a person directly involved, where paparazzi have trespassed or used "visual or auditory enhancement devices" to capture recordings that they otherwise could not have captured without trespassing;
(vii) provision should be made for anyone who knows that information or images relating to his or her private life are about to be disseminated to initiate emergency judicial proceedings, such as summary applications for an interim order or an injunction postponing the dissemination of the information, subject to an assessment by the court as to the merits of the claim of an invasion of privacy;
(viii) the media should be encouraged to create their own guidelines for publication and to set up an institute with which an individual can lodge complaints of invasion of privacy and demand that a rectification be published.
15. It invites those governments which have not yet done so to ratify without delay the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data.
16. The Assembly also calls upon the governments of the member states to:
(i) encourage the professional bodies that represent journalists to draw up certain criteria for entry to the profession, as well as standards for self-regulation and a code of journalistic conduct;
(ii) promote the inclusion in journalism training programmes of a course in law, highlighting the importance of the right to privacy vis-à-vis society as a whole;
(iii) foster the development of media education on a wider scale, as part of education about human rights and responsibilities, in order to raise media users' awareness of what the right to privacy necessarily entails;
(iv) facilitate access to the courts and simplify the legal procedures relating to press offences, in order to ensure that victims' rights are better protected.”
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 8 OF THE CONVENTION
43. The applicant submitted that the German court decisions had infringed her right to respect for her private and family life guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention, which is worded as follows:
“1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
A. Submissions of the parties and interveners
1. The applicant
44. The applicant stated that she had spent more than ten years in unsuccessful litigation in the German courts trying to establish her right to the protection of her private life. She alleged that as soon as she left her house she was constantly hounded by paparazzi who followed her every daily movement, be it crossing the road, fetching her children from school, doing her shopping, out walking, practising sport or going on holiday. In her submission, the protection afforded to the private life of a public figure like herself was minimal under German law because the concept of a “secluded place” as defined by the Federal Court of Justice and the Federal Constitutional Court was much too narrow in that respect. Furthermore, in order to benefit from that protection the onus was on her to establish every time that she had been in a secluded place. She was thus deprived of any privacy and could not move about freely without being a target for the paparazzi. She affirmed that in France her prior agreement was necessary for the publication of any photos not showing her at an official event. Such photos were regularly taken in France and then sold and published in Germany. The protection of private life from which she benefited in France was therefore systematically circumvented by virtue of the decisions of the German courts. On the subject of the freedom of the press the applicant stated that she was aware of the essential role played by the press in a democratic society in terms of informing and forming public opinion, but in her case it was just the entertainment press seeking to satisfy its readers' voyeuristic tendencies and make huge profits from generally anodyne photos showing her going about her daily business. Lastly, the applicant stressed that it was materially impossible to establish in respect of every photo whether or not she had been in a secluded place. As the judicial proceedings were generally held several months after publication of the photos, she was obliged to keep a permanent record of her every movement in order to protect herself from paparazzi who might photograph her. With regard to many of the photos that were the subject of this application it was impossible to determine the exact time and place at which they had been taken.
2. The Government
45. The Government submitted that German law, while taking account of the fundamental role of the freedom of the press in a democratic society, contained sufficient safeguards to prevent any abuse and ensure the effective protection of the private life of even public figures. In their submission, the German courts had in the instant case struck a fair balance between the applicant's rights to respect for her private life guaranteed by Article 8 and the freedom of the press guaranteed by Article 10, having regard to the margin of appreciation available to the State in this area. The courts had found in the first instance that the photos had not been taken in a secluded place and had, in the second instance, examined the limits on the protection of private life, particularly in the light of the freedom of the press and even where the publication of photos by the entertainment press were concerned. The protection of the private life of a figure of contemporary society “par excellence” did not require the publication of photos without his or her authorisation to be limited to showing the person in question engaged in their official duties. The public had a legitimate interest in knowing how the person behaved generally in public. The Government submitted that this definition of the freedom of the press by the Federal Constitutional Court was compatible with Article 10 and the European Court's relevant case-law. Furthermore, the concept of a secluded place was only one factor, albeit an important one, of which the domestic courts took account when balancing the protection of private life against the freedom of the press. Accordingly, while private life was less well protected where
a public figure was photographed in a public place other factors could also be taken into consideration, such as the nature of the photos, for example, which should not shock the public. Lastly, the Government reiterated that the decision of the Federal Court of Justice – which had held that the publication of photos of the applicant with the actor Vincent Lindon in
a restaurant courtyard in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence were unlawful – showed that the applicant's private life was protected even outside her home.
3. The interveners
46. The Association of Editors of German Magazines submitted that German law, which was half way between French law and United Kingdom law, struck a fair balance between the right to protection of private life and the freedom of the press. In its submission, it also complied with the principles set out in Resolution no. 1165 of the Council of Europe on the right to privacy and the European Court's case-law, which had always stressed the fundamental role of the press in a democratic society.
The public's legitimate interest in being informed was not limited to politicians, but extended to public figures who had become known for other reasons. The press's role of “watchdog” could not be narrowly interpreted here. In that connection account should also be taken of the fact that the boundary between political commentary and entertainment was becoming increasingly blurred. Given that there was no uniform European standard concerning the protection of private life, the State had a wide margin of appreciation in this area.
47. Burda joined the observations of the Association of Editors of German Magazines and stated that German law required the courts to balance the competing interests of informing the public and protecting the right to control of the use of one's image very strictly and on a case by case basis. Even figures of contemporary society “par excellence” enjoyed a not
inconsiderable degree of protection and recent case-law had even tended towards reinforcing that protection. Since the death of her mother in 1982 the applicant had officially been First Lady of the reigning family in Monaco and was as such an example for the public (Vorbildfunktion). Moreover, the Grimaldi family had always sought to attract media attention and was therefore itself responsible for the public interest in it. The applicant could not therefore, especially if account were taken of her official functions, be regarded as a victim of the press. The publication of the photos in question had not infringed her right to control the use of her image because they had been taken while she was in public and had not been damaging to her reputation.
B. The Court's assessment
1. As regards the subject of the application
48. The Court notes at the outset that the photos of the applicant with her children are no longer the subject of this application, as it stated in its admissibility decision of 8 July 2003.
The same applies to the photos published in Freizeit Revue magazine (edition no. 30 of 22 July 1993) showing the applicant with Vincent Lindon at the far end of a restaurant courtyard in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
(see paragraph 11 above). In its judgment of 19 December 1995 the Federal Court of Justice prohibited any further publication of the photos on the ground that they infringed the applicant's right to respect for her private life (see paragraph 23 above).
49. Accordingly, the Court considers it important to specify that the present application concerns the following photos, which were published as part of a series of articles about the applicant:
(i) the photo published in Bunte magazine (edition no. 32 of 5 August 1993) showing the applicant on horseback (see paragraph 12 above)
(ii) the photos published in Bunte magazine (edition no. 34
of 19 August 1993) showing the applicant shopping on her own; with Mr Vincent Lindon in a restaurant; alone on a bicycle; and with her bodyguard at a market (see paragraph 13 above);
(iii) the photos published in Bunte magazine (edition no. 10
of 27 February 1997) showing the applicant on a skiing holiday in Austria (see paragraph 14 above);
(iv) the photos published in Bunte magazine (edition no. 12
of 13 March 1997) showing the applicant with Prince Ernst August von Hannover or alone leaving her Parisian residence (see paragraph 15 above);
(v) the photos published in Bunte magazine (edition no. 16
of 10 April 1997 showing the applicant playing tennis with Prince Ernst August von Hannover or both of them putting their bicycles down
(see paragraph 16 above);
(vi) the photos published in Neue Post magazine (edition no. 35/97) showing the applicant tripping over an obstacle at the Monte Carlo Beach Club (see paragraph 17 above).
2. As regards the applicability of Article 8
50. The Court reiterates that the concept of private life extends to aspects relating to personal identity, such as a person's name (see Burghartz v. Switzerland, judgment of 22 February 1994, Series A no. 280-B, p. 28, § 24), or a person's picture (see Schüssel v. Austria (dec.), no. 42409/98, 21 February 2002).
Furthermore, private life, in the Court's view, includes a person's physical and psychological integrity; the guarantee afforded by Article 8 of the Convention is primarily intended to ensure the development, without outside interference, of the personality of each individual in his relations with other human beings (see, mutatis mutandis, Niemietz v. Germany, judgment of 16 December 1992, Series A no. 251-B, p. 33, § 29, and Botta v. Italy, judgment of 24 February 1998, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1998-I, p. 422, § 32). There is therefore a zone of interaction of a person with others, even in a public context, which may fall within the scope of “private life” (see, mutatis mutandis, P.G. and J.H. v. the United Kingdom, no. 44787/98, § 56, ECHR 2001-IX, and Peck v. the United Kingdom, no. 44647/98, § 57, ECHR 2003-I.).
51. The Court has also indicated that, in certain circumstances, a person has a “legitimate expectation” of protection and respect for his or her private life. Accordingly, it has held in a case concerning the interception of telephone calls on business premises that the applicant “would have had a reasonable expectation of privacy for such calls” (see Halford v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 25 June 1997, Reports 1997-III, p.1016, § 45).
52. As regards photos, with a view to defining the scope of the protection afforded by Article 8 against arbitrary interference by public authorities, the Commission had regard to whether the photographs related to private or public matters and whether the material thus obtained was envisaged for a limited use or was likely to be made available to the general public (see, mutatis mutandis, Friedl v. Austria, judgment of 31 January 1995, Series A no. 305-B, Friendly Settlement, Commission opinion, p. 21, §§ 49-52; P.G. and J.H., cited above, § 58; and Peck, cited above, § 61).
53. In the present case there is no doubt that the publication by various German magazines of photos of the applicant in her daily life either on her own or with other people falls within the scope of her private life.
3. Compliance with Article 8
a. The domestic courts' position
54. The Court notes that, in its landmark judgment of 15 December 1999, the Federal Constitutional Court interpreted sections
22 and 23 of the Copyright (Arts Domain) Act (see paragraphs 40-41 above) by balancing the requirements of the freedom of the press against those of the protection of private life, that is, the public interest in being informed against the legitimate interests of the applicant. In doing so the Federal Constitutional Court took account of two criteria under German law, one functional and the other spatial. It considered that the applicant, as a figure of contemporary society “par excellence”, enjoyed the protection of her private life even outside her home but only if she was in a secluded place out of the public eye “to which the person concerned retires with the objectively recognisable aim of being alone and where, confident of being alone, behaves in a manner in which he or she would not behave in public”. In the light of those criteria the Federal Constitutional Court held that the Federal Court of Justice's judgment of 19 December 1995 regarding publication of the photos in question was compatible with the Basic Law. The court attached decisive weight to the freedom of the press, even the entertainment press, and to the public interest in knowing how the applicant behaved outside her representative functions (see paragraph 25 above).
55. Referring to its landmark judgment, the Federal Constitutional Court did not entertain the applicant's appeals in the subsequent proceedings brought by her (see paragraphs 32 and 38 above).
b. The general principles governing the protection of private life and the freedom of expression
56. In the present case the applicant did not complain of an action by the State, but rather of the lack of adequate State protection of her private life and her image.
57. The Court reiterates that although the object of Article 8 is essentially that of protecting the individual against arbitrary interference by the public authorities, it does not merely compel the State to abstain from such interference: in addition to this primarily negative undertaking, there may be positive obligations inherent in an effective respect for private or family life. These obligations may involve the adoption of measures designed to secure respect for private life even in the sphere of the relations of individuals between themselves (see, mutatis mutandis, X and Y v. the Netherlands, judgment of 26 March 1985, Series A no. 91, p. 11, § 23; Stjerna v. Finland, judgment of 25 November 1994, Series A no. 299-B, p. 61, § 38; and Verliere v. Switzerland (dec.), no. 41953/98, ECHR 2001-VII). That also applies to the protection of a person's picture against abuse by others (see Schüssel, cited above).
The boundary between the State's positive and negative obligations under this provision does not lend itself to precise definition. The applicable principles are, nonetheless, similar. In both contexts regard must be had to the fair balance that has to be struck between the competing interests of the individual and of the community as a whole; and in both contexts the State enjoys a certain margin of appreciation (see, among many other authorities, Keegan v. Ireland, judgment of 26 May 1994, Series A no. 290, p. 19, § 49, and Botta, cited above, p. 427, § 33).
58. That protection of private life has to be balanced against the freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the Convention. In that context the Court reiterates that the freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society. Subject to paragraph 2 of Article 10, it is applicable not only to “information” or “ideas” that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb. Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no “democratic society” (see Handyside v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 7 December 1976, Series A no. 24, p. 23, § 49).
In that connection the press plays an essential role in a democratic society. Although it must not overstep certain bounds, in particular in respect of the reputation and rights of others, its duty is nevertheless to impart – in a manner consistent with its obligations and responsibilities – information and ideas on all matters of public interest (see, among many authorities, Observer and Guardian v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 26 November 1991, Series A no. 216, p. 29-30, § 59, and Bladet Tromsø and Stensaas v. Norway [GC], no. 21980/93, § 59, ECHR 1999-III). Journalistic freedom also covers possible recourse to a degree of exaggeration, or even provocation (see Prager and Oberschlick v. Austria, judgment of 26 April 1995, Series A no. 313, p. 19, § 38; Tammer v. Estonia, no. 41205/98, § 59-63, ECHR 2001-I; and Prisma Press v. France (dec.), nos. 66910/01 and 71612/01, 1 July 2003).
59. Although freedom of expression also extends to the publication of photos, this is an area in which the protection of the rights and reputation of others takes on particular importance. The present case does not concern the dissemination of “ideas”, but of images containing very personal or even intimate “information” about an individual. Furthermore, photos appearing in the tabloid press are often taken in a climate of continual harassment which induces in the person concerned a very strong sense of intrusion into their private life or even of persecution.
60. In the cases in which the Court has had to balance the protection of private life against the freedom of expression it has always stressed the contribution made by photos or articles in the press to a debate of general interest (see, as a recent authority, News Verlags GmbH & CoKG v. Austria, no. 31457/96, § 52 et seq., ECHR 2000-I, and Krone Verlag GmbH & Co. KG v. Austria, no. 34315/96, § 33 et seq., 26 February 2002). The Court thus found, in one case, that the use of certain terms in relation to an individual's private life was not “justified by considerations of public concern” and that those terms did not “[bear] on a matter of general importance” (see Tammer, cited above, § 68) and went on to hold that there had not been a violation of Article 10. In another case, however, the Court attached particular importance to the fact that the subject in question was a news item of “major public concern” and that the published photographs “did not disclose any details of [the] private life” of the person in question (see Krone Verlag, cited above, § 37) and held that there had been a violation of Article 10. Similarly, in a recent case concerning the publication by President Mitterand's former private doctor of a book containing revelations about the President's state of health, the Court held that “the more time passed the more the public interest in President Mitterand's two seven-year presidential terms prevailed over the requirements of the protection of his rights with regard to medical confidentiality” (see Plon (Société) v. France, no. 58148/00, 18 May 2004) and held that there had been a breach of Article 10.
c. Application of these general principles by the Court
61. The Court points out at the outset that in the present case the photos of the applicant in the various German magazines show her in scenes from her daily life, thus engaged in activities of a purely private nature such as practising sport, out walking, leaving a restaurant or on holiday. The photos, in which the applicant appears sometimes alone and sometimes in company, illustrate a series of articles with such anodyne titles as 'Pure happiness”, “Caroline ... a woman returning to life”, “Out and about with Princess Caroline in Paris” and “The kiss. Or: they are not hiding anymore ...”
(see paragraphs 11-17 above).
62. The Court also notes that the applicant, as a member of the Prince of Monaco's family, represents the ruling family at certain cultural or charitable events. However, she does not exercise any function within or on behalf of the State of Monaco or one of its institutions (see paragraph 8 above).
63. The Court considers that a fundamental distinction needs to be made between reporting facts – even controversial ones – capable of contributing to a debate in a democratic society relating to politicians in the exercise of their functions, for example, and reporting details of the private life of an individual who, moreover, as in this case, does not exercise official functions. While in the former case the press exercises its vital role of “watchdog” in a democracy by contributing to “impart[ing] information and ideas on matters of public interest (Observer and Guardian, cited above, ibid.) it does not do so in the latter case.
64. Similarly, although the public has a right to be informed, which is an essential right in a democratic society that, in certain special circumstances, can even extend to aspects of the private life of public figures, particularly where politicians are concerned (see Plon (Société), cited above, ibid.),
this is not the case here. The situation here does not come within the sphere of any political or public debate because the published photos and accompanying commentaries relate exclusively to details of the applicant's private life.
65. As in other similar cases it has examined, the Court considers that the publication of the photos and articles in question, of which the sole purpose was to satisfy the curiosity of a particular readership regarding the details of the applicant's private life, cannot be deemed to contribute to any debate of general interest to society despite the applicant being known to the public (see, mutatis mutandis, Jaime Campmany y Diez de Revenga and Juan Luís Lopez-Galiacho Perona v. Spain (dec.), no. 54224/00, 12 December 2000; Julio Bou Gibert and El Hogar Y La Moda J.A. v. Spain (dec.), no. 14929/02, 13 May 2003; and Prisma Presse, cited above).
66. In these conditions freedom of expression calls for a narrower interpretation (see Prisma Presse, cited above, and, by converse implication, Krone Verlag, cited above, § 37).
67. In that connection the Court also takes account of the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the right to privacy, which stresses the “one-sided interpretation of the right to freedom of expression” by certain media which attempt to justify an infringement of the rights protected by Article 8 of the Convention by claiming that “their readers are entitled to know everything about public figures” (see paragraph 42 above, and Prisma Presse, cited above).
68. The Court finds another point to be of importance: even though, strictly speaking, the present application concerns only the publication of the photos and articles by various German magazines, the context in which these photos were taken – without the applicant's knowledge or consent –and the harassment endured by many public figures in their daily lives cannot be fully disregarded (see paragraph 59 above).
In the present case this point is illustrated in particularly striking fashion by the photos taken of the applicant at the Monte Carlo Beach Club tripping over an obstacle and falling down (see paragraph 17 above). It appears that these photos were taken secretly at a distance of several hundred metres, probably from a neighbouring house, whereas journalists and photographers' access to the club was strictly regulated (see paragraph 33 above).
69. The Court reiterates the fundamental importance of protecting private life from the point of view of the development of every human being's personality. That protection – as stated above – extends beyond the private family circle and also includes a social dimension. The Court considers that anyone, even if they are known to the general public, must be able to enjoy a “legitimate expectation” of protection of and respect for their private life (see paragraph 51 above and, mutatis mutandis, Halford, cited above, § 45).
70. Furthermore, increased vigilance in protecting private life is necessary to contend with new communication technologies which make it possible to store and reproduce personal data (see point 5 of the Parliamentary Assembly's resolution on the right to privacy – see paragraph 42 above and, mutatis mutandis, Amann v. Switzerland [GC], no. 27798/95, § 65-67, ECHR 2000-II; Rotaru v. Romania [GC], no. 28341/95, § 43-44, ECHR 2000-V; P.G. and J.H., cited above, § 57-60, ECHR 2001-IX; and Peck, cited above, §§ 59-63, and § 78). This also applies to the systematic taking of specific photos and their dissemination to a broad section of the public.
71. Lastly, the Court reiterates that the Convention is intended to guarantee not rights that are theoretical or illusory but rights that are practical and effective (see Artico v. Italy, judgment of 13 May 1980, Series A no. 37, p. 15-16, § 33).
72. The Court has difficulty in agreeing with the domestic courts' interpretation of section 23(1) of the Copyright (Arts Domain) Act, which consists in describing a person as such as a figure of contemporary society “par excellence”. Since that definition affords the person very limited protection of their private life or the right to control the use of their image, it could conceivably be appropriate for politicians exercising official functions. However, it cannot be justified for a “private” individual, such as the applicant, in whom the interest of the general public and the press is based solely on her membership of a reigning family whereas she herself does not exercise any official functions.
In any event the Court considers that, in these conditions, the Act has to be interpreted narrowly to ensure that the State complies with its positive obligation under the Convention to protect private life and the right to control the use of one's image.
73. Lastly, the distinction drawn between figures of contemporary society “par excellence” and “relatively” public figures has to be clear and obvious so that, in a state governed by the rule of law, the individual has precise indications as to the behaviour he or she should adopt. Above all, they need to know exactly when and where they are in a protected sphere or, on the contrary, in a sphere in which they must expect interference from others, especially the tabloid press.
74. The Court therefore considers that the criteria on which the domestic courts based their decisions were not sufficient to protect the applicant's private life effectively. As a figure of contemporary society
“par excellence” she cannot – in the name of freedom of the press and the public interest – rely on protection of her private life unless she is in a secluded place out of the public eye and, moreover, succeeds in proving it (which can be difficult). Where that is not the case, she has to accept that she might be photographed at almost any time, systematically, and that the photos are then very widely disseminated even if, as was the case here, the photos and accompanying articles relate exclusively to details of her private life.
75. In the Court's view, the criterion of spatial isolation, although apposite in theory, is in reality too vague and difficult for the person concerned to determine in advance. In the present case merely classifying the applicant as a figure of contemporary society “par excellence” does not suffice to justify such an intrusion into her private life.
76. As the Court has stated above, it considers that the decisive factor in balancing the protection of private life against freedom of expression should lie in the contribution that the published photos and articles make to a debate of general interest. It is clear in the instant case that they made no such contribution since the applicant exercises no official function and the photos and articles related exclusively to details of her private life.
77. Furthermore, the Court considers that the public does not have a legitimate interest in knowing where the applicant is and how she behaves generally in her private life even if she appears in places that cannot always be described as secluded and despite the fact that she is well known to the public.
Even if such a public interest exists, as does a commercial interest of the magazines in publishing these photos and these articles, in the instant case those interests must, in the Court's view, yield to the applicant's right to the effective protection of her private life.
78. Lastly, in the Court's opinion the criteria established by the domestic courts were not sufficient to ensure the effective protection of the applicant's private life and she should, in the circumstances of the case, have had a “legitimate expectation” of protection of her private life.
79. Having regard to all the foregoing factors, and despite the margin of appreciation afforded to the State in this area, the Court considers that the German courts did not strike a fair balance between the competing interests.
80. There has therefore been a breach of Article 8 of the Convention.
81. Having regard to that finding, the Court does not consider it necessary to rule on the applicant's complaint relating to her right to respect for her family life.
II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
82. Article 41 of the Convention provides:
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
83. The applicant claimed 50,000 (EUR) in non-pecuniary damage on the ground that the German courts' decisions prevented her from leading a normal life with her children without being hounded by the media. She also claimed EUR 142,851.31 in reimbursement of her costs and expenses for the many sets of proceedings she had had to bring in the German courts.
84. The Government contested the amounts claimed. As regards non-pecuniary damage, they reiterated that, under German law, the applicant enjoyed protection of her private life even outside her home, particularly where her children were concerned. With regard to costs and expenses, they submitted that not all the proceedings could be taken into account, that the value of parts of the subject-matter was less than the amount stated, and that the legal fees being claimed, in view of the amount concerned, could not be reimbursed.
85. The Court considers that the question of the application of Article 41 is not ready for decision. Accordingly, it shall be reserved and the subsequent procedure fixed having regard to any agreement which might be reached between the Government and the applicant.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
1. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention;
2. Holds that the question of the application of Article 41 is not ready for decision; and
(a) reserves the said question in whole;
(b) invites the Government and the applicant to submit, within six months from the date on which the judgment becomes final according to Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, their written observations on the matter and, in particular, to notify the Court of any agreement that they may reach;
(c) reserves the further procedure and delegates to the President of the Chamber the power to fix the same if need be.
Done in French, and delivered at a public hearing in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 24 June 2004.
Vincent BERGER Ireneu CABRAL BARRETO
In accordance with Article 45 § 2 of the Convention and Rule 74 § 2 of the Rules of Court, the following separate opinions are annexed to this judgment:
(a) concurring opinion of Mr Cabral Barreto;
(b) concurring opinion of Mr Zupančič.
CONCURRING OPINION OF JUDGE CABRAL BARRETO
I am of the opinion that there has been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention, but am unable to follow the entire reasoning of the majority.
1. My colleagues state in their conclusions that “the decisive factor in balancing the protection of private life against freedom of expression should lie in the contribution that the published photos and articles make to a debate of general interest” and that “the public does not have a legitimate interest in knowing where the applicant is and how she behaves generally in her private life even if she appears in places that cannot always be described as secluded and she is well known to the public”.
In the majority's view the publication of the photos and articles in question was not such as to contribute to a debate of general interest because the applicant was not performing official functions and the published photos and accompanying commentaries related exclusively to details of her private life.
In my view, however, the applicant is a public figure and the public does have a right to be informed about her life.
The solution therefore needs to be found in the fair balance that has to be struck between the applicant's right to her private life and the public's right to be informed.
2. The applicant is a public figure, even if she does not perform any function within or on behalf of the State of Monaco or one of its institutions.
Public figures are persons holding public office and/or using public resources and, more broadly speaking, all those who play a role in public life, whether in politics, the economy, the arts, the social sphere, sport or in any other domain – paragraph 7 of Resolution 1165 (1998) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the right to privacy (see paragraph 42 of the judgment).
It is well known that the applicant has for years played a role in European public life, even if she does not perform any official functions in her own country.
To measure the degree of public interest in her, it is sufficient to look at the amount of media coverage devoted to her public or private life.
Very recently the press drew attention to the fact that, on her arrival at the ceremony of the marriage of Crown Prince Felipe of Spain, the applicant was one of the people from Europe's and the world's high society to be the most widely greeted by the public.
The applicant is, in my view, a public figure and information about her life contributes to a debate of general interest.
The general interest does not have to be limited to political debate.
As pointed out by the Parliamentary Assembly “certain facts relating to the private lives of public figures, particularly politicians, may indeed be of interest to citizens”.
If that is true of politicians it is also true for all other public figures in whom the public takes an interest.
It is therefore necessary to strike a balance between two fundamental rights: the right of public figures to respect for their private life and everyone's right to freedom of expression, which embraces the right of the public to be informed.
I agree with the majority that the private life of a public figure does not stop at their front door.
However, it has to be acknowledged that, in view of their fame, a public figure's life outside their home, and particularly in public places,
is inevitably subject to certain constraints.
Fame and public interest inevitably give rise to a difference in treatment of the private life of an ordinary person and that of a public figure.
As the Federal Constitutional Court pointed out, “the public has a legitimate interest in being allowed to judge whether the personal behaviour of the individuals in question, who are often regarded as idols or role models, convincingly tallies with their behaviour on their official engagements”.
Admittedly, determining the limit of a public figure's private life is no easy task.
Furthermore, a strict criterion might lead to solutions that do not correspond to the “nature of things”.
It is clear that if the person is in an isolated spot everything that happens there must be covered by the protection of private life.
It appears to me, however, that the criterion of spatial isolation used by the German courts is very restrictive.
In my view, whenever a public figure has a “legitimate expectation”
of being safe from the media his or her right to private life prevails over the right to freedom of expression or the right to be informed.
It will never be easy to define in concrete terms the situations that correspond to this “legitimate expectation” and a case-by-case approach
is therefore justified.
This casuistic approach may also give rise to differences of opinion.
The majority attach importance, for example, to the fact that the photos at the Monte Carlo Beach Club had been taken secretly.
I do not dispute the need to take account of the fact that the photos were taken from a distance, particularly if the person was somewhere they could legitimately believe did not expose them to public view.
However, the beach club swimming pool was an open place frequented by the general public and, moreover, visible from the neighbouring buildings.
Is it possible in such a place to entertain a reasonable expectation of not being exposed to public view or to the media?
I do not think so.
I believe that this same criterion is valid for photos showing the applicant in other situations in her daily life in which she cannot expect her private life to be protected.
I have in mind the photos of her doing her shopping.
However, other photos – for example those of the applicant on horseback or playing tennis – were taken in places and circumstances that would call for the opposite approach.
It is thus in the knowledge of the limits to the exercise (I refer in this connection to Judge Zupančič's opinion) that I have found a violation of Article 8 of the Convention.
CONCURRING OPINION OF JUDGE ZUPANČIČ
I adhere to the hesitations raised by my colleague, Judge Cabral Barreto. And while I find the distinctions between the different levels of permitted exposure, as defined by the German legal system, too Begriffsjurisprudenz-like, I nevertheless believe that the balancing test between the public's right to know on the one hand and the affected person's right to privacy on the other hand must be adequately performed. He who willingly steps upon the public stage cannot claim to be a private person entitled to anonymity. Royalty, actors, academics, politicians etc. perform whatever they perform publicly. They may not seek publicity, yet, by definition, their image is to some extent public property.
Here I intend to concentrate not so much on the public's right to know – this applies first and foremost to the issue of the freedom of the press and the constitutional doctrine concerning it –, but rather on the simple fact that it is impossible to separate by an iron curtain private life from public performance. The absolute incognito existence is the privilege of Robinson; the rest of us all attract to a greater or smaller degree the interest of other people.
Privacy, on the other hand, is the right to be left alone. One has the right to be left alone precisely to the degree to which one's private life does not intersect with other people's private lives. In their own way, legal concepts such as libel, defamation, slander etc. testify to this right and to the limits on other people's meddling with it. The German private-law doctrine of Persönlichkeitsrecht testifies to a broader concentric circle of protected privacy. Moreover, I believe that the courts have to some extent and under American influence made a fetish of the freedom of the press.
The Persönlichkeitsrecht doctrine imparts a higher level of civilized interpersonal deportment.
It is time that the pendulum swung back to a different kind of balance between what is private and secluded and what is public and unshielded.
The question here is how to ascertain and assess this balance. I agree with the outcome of this case. However, I would suggest a different determinative test: the one we have used in Halford v. United Kingdom, judgment of 25/06/1997, Reports 1997-III, which speaks of “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
The context of criminal procedure and the use of evidence obtained in violation of the reasonable expectation of privacy in Halford do not prevent us from employing the same test in cases such as the one before us.
The dilemma as to whether the applicant here was or was not a public figure, ceases to exist; the proposed criterion of reasonable expectation of privacy permits a nuanced approach to every new case. Perhaps is this what Judge Cabral Barreto has in mind when he refers to the emerging case-law concerning the balancing exercise between the public's right to know and the private person's right to shield him- or herself.
Of course, one must avoid a circuitous reasoning here.
The “reasonableness” of the expectation of privacy could be reduced to the aforementioned balancing test. But reasonableness is also an allusion to informed common sense, which tells us that he who lives in a glass house may not have the right to throw stones.