The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Privacy battle bares ‘public property’
- British daily digs up pictures of keen-on-exposure Zeta-Jones

London, April 12: A newspaper in Britain has published raunchy pictures of Oscar-winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones to drive home the point that once upon a time, she would do almost anything to get publicity but that she reinvented herself after marrying Hollywood star Michael Douglas.

Meanwhile, in the high court case brought by the Douglases against Hello! for publishing sneak wedding photographs promised to the rival OK!, both sides are claiming victory.

Today’s Daily Mail has published pictures of “Catherine, in the days when she was happy to be public property”. Just so that no one misses the significance of the pictures, taken in 1995 for a men’s magazine called Loaded, the Mail explains: “This is the photo-shoot that shows Catherine Zeta-Jones wasn’t always quite so protective of her image. Posing in fishnet tights, boots, PVC hotpants and a black basque, she seems extremely keen on exposure.”

The paper adds that “for one of the Loaded shots, she straddled a television set with a bottle of champagne in one hand and a remote control in the other.”

The Mail has published the picture and even hunted down the photographer, Derek Ridgers, who took it. “She was up for whatever ideas we had,” he recalled. “She would try anything. At one point, we had her crushed up on a ledge between the bath and the wall, with me standing up in the bath with my tripod because it was so cramped. She didn’t complain.”

But Zeta-Jones and her husband certainly did complain when their wedding pictures, taken by a paparazzi, appeared in Hello! and not exclusively in rival OK!, which had agreed to buy them for £1 million. The Douglases demanded £500,000 in damages from Hello!, while OK! sought £1.75 million from its rival.

According to the Daily Mail, the Douglases have lost their case. Its headline

on page one, which has nothing on the war, screams: "Hollow victory over her

wedding photos: Catherine Privacy claim is kicked out."

The Daily Mirror agreed that the Douglas had won "a hollow legal victory" and

the London Evening Standard trumpeted, "Zeta-Jones loses her claim for privacy".

The judgment isn't as simple, though. The judge, Mr Justice Lindsay, has

thrown out nine of the 12 claims by the Douglases, including invasion of

privacy, but he did rule that Hello! had broken the "commercial

confidentiality" of the Pound1million deal between the Hollywood couple and OK!

The damages and costs are to be determined later.

The Mail itself admitted that "the ambiguity of the judgment left both sides

claiming victory".

The implications of the ruling will be studied carefully by media lawyers and

many newspapers and magazines whose existence depends on the coverage of

celebrities. The latter do want coverage but only on their terms while there is

a big market for invasive journalism.

Some in the media fear that the British government will introduce some kind of

a privacy law. Today's editorial in The Guardian comments: "It is hard to feel

any great sympathy for a fabulously rich Hollywood couple who never sought to

disguise the fact that they had sought to control -- for money -- the images of

their fashionable New York wedding in December, 2000, and were miffed that a

rival magazine managed a spoiler. It would have stuck in the gullet if the

judge, Mr Justice Lindsay, had used this case, of all cases, to create a

privacy law in this country."

But there were nuggets buried in the judgment, it added, "which should stop

the press shrugging it off as a tiresome fuss about nothing".

The Douglases may privately calculate there is no such thing as bad publicity.

She is due to give birth to her second child any day now and may well be

looking for an exclusive deal for the baby pictures.

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