French court backs royals on photos

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PARIS -- A French court ordered a magazine publisher to hand over all digital copies of topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge within 24 hours and blocked further publication of what it called a "brutal display" of William and Kate's private moments.

Under the ruling Tuesday, the French gossip magazine Closer faces a daily fine of 10,000 euros ($13,100) if it fails to hand over the photos taken during the royals' vacation at a private chateau in Provence in southern France and cannot disseminate them any further, including on its website and tablet app.

The magazine published 14 photos of a partially clad Kate in its pages on Friday.

But if the royal family had hoped to block international publication, it was too late. The Irish Daily Star and the Italian magazine Chi have already republished the topless photos -- the latter in a 26-page section on Monday. Tuesday's ruling affects only Mondadori Magazines France, Closer's publisher. The publisher also faces a 2,000 euros ($2,600) fine.

Significantly, the court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre did not order Closer's publisher Mondadori to pull copies of its Sept. 14 issue from newspaper kiosks.

"These snapshots which showed the intimacy of a couple, partially naked on the terrace of a private home, surrounded by a park several hundred meters from a public road, and being able to legitimately assume that they are protected from passers-by, are by nature particularly intrusive," the French ruling decreed. "(They) were thus subjected to this brutal display the moment the cover appeared."

The photos show Prince William's wife Kate relaxing, sometimes without her bikini top and, in one case, her suit bottom partially pulled down to apply sunscreen.

The lawyer for Mondadori failed to show up at the courthouse on Tuesday.

Maud Sobel, a lawyer for the royal couple, described it as "a wonderful decision."

"We've been vindicated," Ms. Sobel said.

British newspapers, so far, have refrained from printing the photos.

On Monday in Dublin, the publishers of the Irish Daily Star released the following statement: "Independent Star Limited has suspended editor Michael O'Kane with immediate effect, pending an investigation into the circumstances that led to the Irish Daily Star re-publishing pages from the French magazine Closer, which contained images of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge," People reports.

The statement went on to say: "Independent Star Ltd. has no further comment pending conclusion of the joint investigation by the newspaper's shareholders."

William and Kate, though keeping a brave face during the embarrassing episode while on a tour of Asia, have also filed a criminal complaint against Closer and will be seeking damages, a spokesperson for Clarence House said on Monday.

Separately from the injunction, prosecutors in Nanterre have also ordered a criminal investigation into the pictures.

Under French law, taking someone's photograph in a private place without their consent is a crime punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a fine of $50,000, separate from any damages award.

Legal experts say Closer, its editor and the photographer who snapped Kate with a long lens and whom the magazine is refusing to name could all face charges.

people


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