back to article British newspaper websites liable in France for privacy invasion

Two British newspaper publishers have been fined in French courts because they violated French privacy laws. The publishers were liable because the articles were viewed in France on the internet. Olivier Martinez, famous in the UK as an ex-boyfriend of Kylie Minogue, sued Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) and Associated Newspapers …


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  1. Whitter
    Thumb Down

    Thin edge of a wedgie

    If somebody paid a subscription in France to see it then it's a fair cop. If not: sling yer hook! This kind of thinking will, if allowed, lead to the lowest level of press freedom in the EU becoming the defaco EU standard.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Liable for link contents

    So if I link to the Labour Party website from my blog I'm liable for all it's contents, and policies, and petrol prices, and the 10p tax....Sounds like a good way to kill the internet, ban all hyperlinks, just in case!

  3. Steve

    French courts emulating the US

    Are they just trying to keep up with the freedom fry eating US courts?

    Either way, they want kicking into touch, publications should be governed by the laws where they are made and/or where the content is hosted, so in this case the UK.

    The interpretation of that French court gives it jurisdiction over any website that is accessible from France, so whilst perfectly legal in the host country they find themselves being sued or even worst facing criminal proceedings under French law.

  4. Anton Channing

    Servers not in France.

    If the companies are not based in France, and the servers are not based in France, then they shouldn't come under French jurisdiction. This should be challenged to the European Court.

    If we allow a situation where each country can impose its own laws against websites elsewhere in the EU, only the lawyers will be laughing. All the way to the bank.

  5. Pete James

    They always let you down in the end, the French. rather badly quote Harold MacMillan.

    To be honest I thought the law viewed the usual disclaimer that any litigation must be undertaken through the preferred country of the site maintainer - so for example Mirror Group would state a UK court should hear a complaint. The second area is that the location of the pages, not the viewing screen, was the factor in what legal juristiction applied, so this is a pebble thrown in the pond.

    Perhaps the French are making a heavily delayed case for Minitel to make a comeback?

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Maybe its not where its published...

    But how the information for the story was obtained. Journalists followed Martinez around Paris and violated his privacy in France. They broke French privacy laws.

    If I was to go and obtain some content that was illegal in Britain, but post it on a server that was located in a country where it was legal, I would expect to be prosecuted here if I was caught for breaking British laws.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    BT Phorm\Webwise

    I just hope BT/Phorm/Webwise have a pot of gold to dish out in fines when French websites are profiled by BT customers who innocently browse to those French websites.

    Phorm are illegally (according to the experts) intercepting data at the customer and also at the Website the customer visits. Privacy is two way and while the BT customer may innocently opt in, does the website agree to this profiling. As far as I am concerned the website may not!

    Paris because she loves an a deep level packet interception

  8. Matt


    I think we can argue over whether putting something on the Internet is the same as publishing it in France and if it's the responsibility of French ISPs to block or allow access, o if it's the responsibility of the publisher.

    In the end though who cares? The Mirror Group aren't in France and can't be made to pay, so what was the point Isn't this the same as the US trying to prosecute Pirate Bay?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They're not actually going to pay it, are they?

    If they do, they must be bonkers!

  10. Guy

    Just Block all French IPs

    or if it is accessed from a French IP address, just get them to agree to a disclaimer. Although I favour just blocking them from viewing the sites. Lets see how long France keeps this up after they lose access to any site hosted outside France.....fidiots

  11. Steve

    They must be loving this.

    This basically takes care of the Dail Mail editorial for the next month or so.

  12. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Another daft judge

    I wonder what the judge expects websites to do. Being able to view stuff published outside your legal jurisdiction is pretty much unavoidable on the net.

    It *would* be nice if one could *reliably* map an IP address to the legal jurisdiction of the end-user. It would be possible to set up your firewall so that you can only receive stuff sent by people you can sue. (This would pretty much solve the problems of spam and "bad content".)

    Still, one can try and I assume that operators around the world are now compiling lists of IP address ranges associated with French ISPs and configuring their servers to block connections.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Man it sucks to be Europe right now

    Treaty of Rome, gave people the right to work elsewhere and trade elsewhere.

    Decades of extra rights, right to live with your family, right to privacy, right to fair treatment... Decades of growth, good stuff like Euro, Schengen, fixed bank charges for cross border payments... etc.


    But the last two EU Commissions have been about removing rights.... EU arrest warrant let countries attack each others citizens... which is what will happen if they fail to abide by this courts order and pay the French.... secret unchallengable portfolios of information exchanged by police forces....pre-warrant storage of communications info on every citizen with the data retention act...cross border reporting of banks to tell each country the contents of foreign bank accounts... fortress Europe extra border checks and biometrics on everyone, border checks being reintroduced in the guise of customs checks as part of anti-counterfeiting....

    What new rights have Europeans citizens gained from the last two EU Commissions? vs What rights have we lost? Imagine what we would lose if Blair become EU Commission President?

    I hope the next guy in that seat is from a rich, liberal, free country, who will re-establish all the rights we had before...

    /wishful thinking.

  14. John Browne

    Maybe its not where its published...

    @ AC

    I completely agree.

    The privacy of the individual concerned was breached in France so that's where the infringement occurred.

    Of course British gutter press should be held liable for obtaining material illegally in another jurisdiction. They're probably just thanking their lucky stars they weren't pursued in the UK where any civil judgment against them would be likely be significantly greater than a few thousand Euro.

    However without reading the text of the judgment (I bet it's in French too), I don't know exactly what the courts ruled on.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Internet vs Paper

    So, if the story wasn't online at all, but I'd carried a paper over to France, then they could get prosecuted because the paper was viewed in France?


    The crappy little fine probably means that they won't appeal as well, it's the same problem with all the fixed penalties over here - to get proper justice will cost you more than to just pay out the poxy fine.

  16. James Pickett
    Paris Hilton


    "the articles were viewed in France on the internet"

    How is that different from viewing them in France on paper? I'm all in favour of tabloids being sued, but this does sound a bit, er, French...

    Paris, of course.

  17. Hate2Register
    Paris Hilton

    Even if I did it, you shouldn't talk of it.

    Ok so it's not a case of public interest. But if UK press and readers are interested in who the Franglais are shagging, then we have a right to publish it. The clear way forward for our proud gutter press is to punish these foreign johnnies by publishing a stream of copy about how the truth of their sexy antics might be dangerously hidden behind French privacy laws, and how while we respect their law, it doesn't apply in the UK. Freedom of sexy speech, if you will.

    To make an example of these skulking shagging deniers, Mirror group should investigate their sexual history, and write up any embaressing sexual infections, illegitimate children etc. to help bring the story of French sexuality fully out into the open. I'm not surprised that the French cover up their sex lives. The truth might have an effect on their sexual reputation like the implications the Croque Monsieur (french cheese and ham toastie) should have on their "culinary supremacy".

    Paris Hilton wouldn't deny "doing it", so why should the French be special and get away with hiding behind privacy.

  18. Alan

    Scary biscuits

    This is just madness. I mean I would hope there is more going on here than first appears.

    A french court can sue the ass off me if it wants; i do not live/visit the country, and I should not be held liable for anything that i didn't do within its country!!

  19. Alex

    Very funny

    "The big thing is that for the first time the [court] considered that UK publishers are liable for their contents in France since it is viewable here and the UK is a member of the EU"

    This would mean that online content providers in every EU country should ensure that their content is legal according to every other EU country.

    Best of luck with that. I think that's as feasible as it will be for Martinez is extract a cent from MGN.

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    French ISPs

    Surely responsiblity for making the content available in France lies with the ISPs? Wonder why they're not getting sued.

  22. Jason

    Point missing!! EXCUSIVE!!!!

    I think you're all missing the point - if only we had similar laws over here then we wouldn't be saturated 24/7 with all this celebrity crap in every magazine/newspaper and tv show...and I could laugh at the trouble and strife as she strives to find something as equally brain dead to devote her time to...

  23. Jon Press

    Actually, it's British courts that have become suppressors of free comment...

    Everyone complaining about the role of the French in this case should read:

    The UK courts have been widely criticised for their permissive attitude to "libel tourism".

  24. Anonymous Coward

    White cliffs of Dover

    Visible from france? Wheres Banksy when you need him.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK Courts are just as notorious!

    With all the criticisms being made of French and US courts/jurisdiction people seem to be overlooking the inconvenient fact that the UK courts have a notorious worldwide reputation for supporting tenuous libel actions along very similar lines.

    People living in glass kettles and all that!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does all of this mean we get Brittany Back?

    Did the UK even get a referendum on joining the EU?

    I don't think so, no democratic process in the joinup to the EU.

    Anyway I suppose we just start blocking the French on the servers.

    Most major sites probably start to need to take this approach quite seriously.

    There are certain groups who will never return to your bottom line, and will only cost you, just block them, or include a notice saying not for consumption in France etc.

    That way you avoid a lot of liability, and your site only gets used for your target audience. The Net is just the ability to connect many machines together, it is not a requirement, and things work a lot smoother when the traffic coming in, is your target demographic.

  27. Thomas


    I don't think that's correct. I think that when the Daily Mail computer deliberately sent the material to France that constituted publication in France, the same as if they'd had a printer run out actual copies of the newspaper for French people.

    Conversely, if they publish in the UK and you carry the newspaper to France then they haven't published in France, lacking either knowledge or intention to do so.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Upholding the Law

    I've just been watching a French traffic webcam - published on the internet. A very high proportion of the vehicles were being driven down the right hand side of the road. Surely this is illegal in the UK - prosecute the lot of them I say.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Ah yes, I see what you mean..

    The guy saying cut off France is right then, there's no way to tell whether you're sending it there or not.

  30. Thomas

    "Did the UK even get a referendum on joining the EU?"

    It got better than that — there was a referendum in 1975, two years after the UK joined the European Community (as was), on whether we should withdraw. So people got to actually try the thing before making a decision.

    There was a 64.5% turnout, and 67.2% of people voted to stay in.

  31. Jeff
    Thumb Down

    Team France - the New World Police

    In theaters everywhere except for France where simply viewing images is now cause for a law suit.

  32. Matt

    New information

    Well, if as two others have mentioned, the abuse of privacy took place in France by the British gutter press taking photos then I can see the French courts point.

    However, that's completely different to what the article implies.

    So, what's the truth, come on El Reg get us the facts!

  33. David Evans

    Oh those whacky Frenchies

    This isn't the first time they've tried to exercise their jurisdiction over the whole world; remember their Nazi memorabilia digs at eBay and Amazon?

    Interesting to see what the MGN and Mail's response will be; a resounding "F*** off" I'd guess.

    Mine's the grubby trenchcoat with a baguette in the pocket.

  34. ratfox


    I fail to see why a British newspaper hosting a British website in UK should give a shit about French laws.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    does this mean

    does this mean UK courts will be able to arrest French people for posting lolipronz?

    Just curious...

  36. Liam

    anyone else welcome this?

    the UK press is a bunch of hypocritcal wankers.

    the same red tops that consistently try to get celebs and us screwed over drug usage are all massive coke-heads (i know someone who works for a well known weekend red-top and they are all into the nose-candy)

    also isnt it the mirror and the mail that are the biggest pains in the arse? the mail pushing their fascist views and the mirror just lieing all the time to ruin people's lives. readers of both should takea long hard look at themselves...

    for me if any paper is found lieing more than twice in a year should be broken up and abolished. printing whatever you want then acknowledging your lie in a small piece a few days later doesnt cut it.

    i know of one story where a red-top hounded someone they suspected of being a love-rat. they basically made his life hell to such a point he killed himself. they then found out it had all been a case of mistaken identity!

    not to mention that they just make up stories... i have talked to my mate and he has many times just made up complete lies due to him missing deadlines etc...

    wasnt it the mirror that due to its knowingly leaking confidential documents meant the breakdown of a court case where some asian guys had been 'paky bashed' by some football playing idiots? the guys never got prosecuted....

    i dont read papers any more (big lies in red tops and subtle lies in the times, mail etc) due to the complete unobjective bollocks you normally see...

    mines the one with a beano is the pocket - lease you could rely on that lol

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    maybe you should all calm down, and pay a bit of attention

    I agree with AC.

    "[....] how the information for the story was obtained. Journalists followed Martinez around Paris and violated his privacy in France. They broke French privacy laws. "

    So before (more of) you all start grumping about the internet being a free for all, and that you obviously don't care enough about celebrities privacy being invaded to actually PAY ATTENTION to the article, keep in mind that they were just stupidly trying to break a law. They thought they could get away with it, and I for one am glad they are being held accountable.

    Also, in case you haven't noticed, there has been a lot of talk on here about Facebook allowing users to remove info. The data protection act. That is a UK law. Facebook's servers are in America and they still have to follow our laws when they are dealing with someone residing in the UK.

    JonB your logic is completely off.

    If you took a newspaper into France, probably 10 people at most would see it.

    It is not the same as the www.

    Furthermore, you were not publishing anything or distributing it widely.

    THAT would be an okay comparison..

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