NANTERRE, France // A court yesterday ordered a magazine publisher to hand over all digital copies of photos showing the Duchess of Cambridge topless, within 24 hours, and blocked any further publication of what it called a “brutal display” of Prince William and his wife’s private moments.
The magazine published 14 photos of a semi-naked Kate Middleton on Friday. They were taken during the British royals’ holiday in southern France.
Under the ruling, the French gossip magazine Closer faces a fine of US$10,000 (Dh36,700) each day if it fails to hand over the photos and is banned from any further use of them, including on its website and tablet application.
But if the royal family had hoped to block international publication of the photos, the court ruling came too late, as publications in Ireland and Italy have already printed them.
Yesterday’s ruling only affects Mondadori Magazines France, Closer’s publisher, which also faces a $2,600 fine.
“These snapshots which showed the intimacy of a couple partially naked on the terrace of a private home, surrounded by a park several hundred metres 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 said. “[They] were thus subjected to this brutal display the moment the cover appeared.”
The photos show Kate relaxing at a private villa in Provence, southern France, sometimes without her bikini top and, in one case, with her swimsuit bottom partially pulled down to apply sun-screen.
“The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcome the judge’s ruling,” said a spokeswoman for the royal couple.
Maud Sobel, a lawyer for the royal couple, described it as “a wonderful decision.” “We’ve been vindicated,” she said.
The lawyer for Mondadori failed to appear at the courthouse yesterday.
The case is the first of two legal actions by the British royals. In a reflection of just how intent they are on protecting their privacy – and dissuading the paparazzi from future similar intrusions – St James’s Palace said family lawyers would be filing a criminal complaint.
Christopher Mesnooh, an American lawyer who works in Paris, said French law strongly protected privacy rights but tabloids had their own reasons for publishing, even when they might breach the law.
“It appears to give satisfaction entirely to the royal couple,” Mr Mesnooh said of the court ruling.
But he added that the amount of the fine was nowhere near high enough to dissuade the publication of similar photos in the future.
“If you sell 100,000 copies, you are ahead of the game,” he noted.