09.19.2012

Royals ruling a reminder that privacy matters

On Tuesday, a French court ordered that a magazine which published topless photos of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, be fined and that the photos become property of the royal family.

According to CNN, the court ordered Closer magazine to hand over the original photos to the royal family within 24 hours of the ruling and to pay them 2,000 euros (about $2,600). Furthermore, a French prosecutor opened a preliminary criminal investigation into the incident.

The photos were taken while the Duchess, the former Catherine Middleton, and her husband, Prince William, were vacationing. The story has been making news since Friday because of the enormous popularity of the royal couple. However, it also has raised questions about people’s right to privacy vs. photographers’ right to freedom of expression.

Today, with cameras attached to almost every cell phone, there are photographers everywhere. And the discreet nature of the latest cameras makes it more important than ever before to know the rules. Here in Pennsylvania, photographers – professional and amateur – basically have the right to take pictures of whatever they want in public places where there is not a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, state laws against trespassing, harassment or invasion of privacy apply on private property.

Criminal trespass: No one is allowed to enter a private residence or business, such as school grounds, without permission. A ban on photography is implied.

Invasion of privacy: No one is allowed to photograph someone on private property without his/her permission, even if the photographer is outside the property, at a distance, on public territory such as a sidewalk or public road.

Commercial use: Photography taken in public areas won’t violate any state laws providing there is a written model release.

Editorial use: In Pennsylvania, journalists and citizens may photograph people in public places and publish the photos for editorial purposes without a model release. However, trespass or invasion of privacy laws can be enforced if fraud, deception or unlawful means are used to gain access to a person or place not available to the general public.

If you have any additional questions regarding PA privacy laws, one of our knowledgeable attorneys at Powell Law will be happy to help you. Since 1906, our PA personal injury lawyers have successfully represented thousands of clients in serious personal injury cases, including PA car accidents, tractor trailer accidents, motorcycle accidents, PA medical malpractice, PA worker’s comp, slip and fall, product-related injuries and Social Security disability claims. Our PA criminal defense attorneys represent defendants in all types of summary, misdemeanor and felony cases ranging from drunk driving cases to major crimes in both state and federal courts.

Powell Law is Northeastern Pennsylvania’s oldest PA personal injury law firm. It was established by our grandfather, Attorney James J. Powell Sr., on the principles of honor, integrity and trust. For three generations, we have upheld those principles every day – in every case.

We have offices in Scranton, Stroudsburg, Taylor and Moscow. Call us toll free at 800-290-7707.

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