Von Hannover v. Germany
European Court of Human Rights
24 June 2004
The applicant, the Princess of Monaco, requested the German courts for an injunction preventing a further publication of a series of photographs of her and her children, which had appeared in several German magazines. On the ground of children’s rights and legitimate interests the courts granted the injunction regarding the photographs in which she appeared with her children. However, the courts noted that, as the Princess was a public figure she had to tolerate the publication of photographs of herself in a public place, even if they showed her in scenes from her daily life. This conclusion was based on the public’s legitimate interest in knowing how such a person generally behaved in public.
The Princess maintained that the decisions of the German courts infringed her right to respect for her private life.
The Court found that the German courts had not struck a fair balance between the freedom of expression of the newspapers and the right to private life of the Princess. Thus the Princess’s right to private life had been violated.
In order to analyze whether the fair balance was struck between the applicant’s right to private life and the legitimate aim of having a public debate, the Court weighted as follows:
- Even people known to the public have a “legitimate expectation” that their private life would be protected also in places which are of a relatively public nature, for example, restaurants.
- In the present case, the pictures were taken without the applicant’s knowledge and consent.
- The photographs revealed only details of the private life of the Princess and thus they made no contribution to a debate of public interest.
- Even though the person is famous, the sole purpose of the publication shall not be to satisfy the curiosity of a particular readership.