Following a recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling individuals can now sue publishers for content published online in each EU country in which the individual’s image has been harmed.
A French actor sued a UK newspaper in a French court for breach of his “personality rights” resulting from the publication of a story about him. Under English law these rights do not exist, so no claim could have been made in the English courts. The ECJ was asked to rule on where the actor could pursue his claim.
Which Court has Jurisdiction
The ECJ ruled that individuals could sue publishers either in the countries in which their image had been damaged, or in the country where the person’s “centre of interests” is based. Publishers, should however not be subject to stricter laws than would apply if the claim had been issued in the country in which the publisher was based i.e. the UK. Additionally, any compensation awarded by national courts could only relate to damage caused in the country sued in.
An individual’s “centre of interests” is generally the place of habitual residence, however the ECJ added that “a person may also have the centre of his interests in a member state in which he does not habitually reside, in so far as other factors, such as the pursuit of a professional activity, may establish the existence of a particularly close link with that state.”
Implications for Internet Publishers
This decision widens the potential liability of EU website operators. They could now be liable for numerous damages claims for breaches of privacy not just in the country of publication – where the website operator is based – but in any EU country in which a claimant’s rights have been breached.