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Not a picture perfect win

London, April 11 (Reuters): Hollywood couple Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones today won a court battle against celebrity magazine Hello!, which printed unflattering — and unauthorised — photos of their wedding.

“We deeply appreciate that the court has recognised the principle that every individual has the right to be protected from excessive and unwarranted media intrusion into their private lives,” they said in a statement.

Zeta-Jones, who is due to give birth any day, was outraged at the pictures, some of which showed her being fed cake by her husband. The photographer gatecrashed the 2000 wedding in New York and secretly took pictures from a camera at his hip.

The month-long case, seen as a landmark test of celebrity privacy rights, ended at London’s High Court in March but the presiding judge reserved his verdict until today.

The amount of damages will be decided at a later date.

The pair sued Hello! for £500,000 for printing “surreptitious” pictures three days before official shots appeared in rival magazine OK!, which had signed a £1-million deal with the couple. OK! is also seeking damages.

Welsh actress Zeta-Jones, 33, who won an Oscar for her supporting role in Chicago, had told the court she felt “violated” by the unofficial photos. Calling them sleazy and unflattering, she was particularly upset at shots she said made her look as if all she did was eat. “I felt devastated.... I felt violated,” she said from the witness box. “I did not want my husband shoving a spoon down my throat to be photographed.... It is offensive.”

But Hello! maintained the couple forfeited the right to privacy by selling pictures to OK! and then agreeing to their syndication around the world.

Although high court judge John Lindsay said Hello! breached the couple’s rights of confidence, he ruled against them on claims of invasion of privacy and rejected claims for “aggravated and exemplary” damages.

“I do not doubt that Mr Douglas and Miss Zeta-Jones suffered real distress,” he said. “Given that there was in any event to be very extensive photographic coverage of the wedding, albeit as selected by the Douglases, I do not see the behaviour of Hello! as so flagrant or offensive as to justify an award of aggravated damages.”

Hello! publishing director Sally Cartwright said nine out of the 13 claims against them had been thrown out. “The areas where he has found against us are, frankly, commercial ones,” she said. “These rulings bear out what we have always said — that this case was not brought about privacy but about a commercial deal: money and control.”

One of the highest-profile couples on Hollywood’s A-list, Douglas and Zeta-Jones brought a rare flash of glamour to the fusty corridors of the law courts in London when they gave evidence in person during the hearing.

The case offered a glimpse into the pampered lives of the stars, who munched on mints from a silver dish in court despite a clerk’s reminder that food was forbidden.

At one point Zeta-Jones, diamonds glittering at her ears, neck and hands, said that while a million pounds might be a lot to some people in the courtroom, it was “not that much for us”.

Costs of the case are estimated at £3 million. Lindsay said that unless the parties agreed, there would be a further hearing to determine the amount for which Hello! is liable to the couple and OK! magazine.

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