Douglas etc v Hello! Ltd etc: ChD 11 Apr 2003

The claimants were to be married. They sold the rights to publish photographs of their wedding, but various of the defendants took and published unauthorised pictures.
Held: The claimants had gone to lengths to ensure the commercial value of their celebration, and it could attract the protection given in law to confidential matters. What matters is whether the information has ‘the basic attribute of inaccessibility’. That right was to be balanced against the right of freedom of expression.
In this case the defendants had also acted in breach of the Press Complaints Commission code, and the balance fell in favour of the claimants. The developing law of private confidence is a fusion of commercial confidence and human rights. As to Data Protection, three Defendants were data controllers, the unauthorised pictures were personal data and publication is covered by the Act. When a data controller is responsible for the publication of hard copies that reproduce data that has previously been processed by means of equipment operated automatically, the publication forms part of the process and falls within the scope of the Act. The claimants were entitled to an award under the Act.


Lindsay J


[2003] EWHC 786 (Ch), Times 21-Apr-2003, [2003] 3 All ER 996, [2003] EMLR 31




Data Protection Act 1998


England and Wales


CitedPrince Albert v Strange ChD 8-Feb-1849
The Prince sought to restrain publication of otherwise unpublished private etchings and lists of works by Queen Victoria. The etchings appeared to have been removed surreptitiously from or by one Brown. A personal confidence was claimed.
Held: . .
CitedFraser v Evans CA 1969
The law of confidence is based on the moral principles of loyalty and fair dealing. An injunction was sought to restrain an intended publication: ‘The court will not restrain the publication of an article, even though it is defamatory, when the . .
CitedCoco v A N Clark (Engineers) Ltd ChD 1968
Requirememts to prove breach of confidence
A claim was made for breach of confidence in respect of technical information whose value was commercial.
Held: Megarry J set out three elements which will normally be required if, apart from contract, a case of breach of confidence is to . .
CitedShelley Films Ltd v Rex Features Ltd ChD 1994
Still photographs had been taken of a forthcoming film, which the producers had taken steps to keep confidential.
Held: A chancery judge may grant an injunction to restrain the publication of photographs taken surreptitiously in circumstances . .
CitedCreation Records Ltd and Another v News Group Newspapers Ltd ChD 29-Apr-1997
A pop group had posed at a specially devised scene, consisting of a white Rolls Royce in the swimming pool of a hotel and incorporating various other props. The object of the exercise was to take a photograph to be used as a record cover. The . .
CitedGilbert v The Star Newspaper Co Ltd ChD 1894
W.S. Gilbert had found that, in breach of the implied obligation upon cast members and theatre employees not to disclose the plot of the play in respect of which they were engaged, the plot of his comic opera ‘His Excellency’ had been disclosed to . .
CitedO Mustad and Son v Dosen and Another; O Mustad and Son vAllcock HL 1924
(Heard in 1924, but noted only in 1963) Dosen worked for a company T under a contract of employment that included an undertaking to keep confidential information acquired at work. His employer went into liquidation. The benefit of that company’s . .
CitedStephens v Avery ChD 1988
The parties had been friends and had discussed their sex lives. The defendant took the information to a newspaper and its editor, the second and subsequent defendants who published it. The plaintiff sought damages saying the conversations and . .
CitedPollard v Photographic Co 1888
Mrs Pollard had contracted with the defendant for photographs to be taken of herself for her own purposes. She found that the defendant was using the photograph for quite different purposes. She argued that, she having contracted for the photograph . .
CitedSports and General Press Agency v ‘Our Dogs’ Publishing Co CA 1917
The plaintiff had sold to the Press photographic rights to a dog show. An independent photographer took pictures and sold them to the defendant, who published them. The plaintiff sought to restrain further publication.
Held: An injunction was . .
See AlsoDouglas, Zeta-Jones, Northern and Shell Plc v Hello! Limited, Hola SA, Junco, The Marquesa De Varela, Neneta Overseas Limited, Ramey CA 12-Feb-2003
The claimants claimed infringement of the privacy of their wedding celebrations. They requested permission for service out of the jurisdiction to join Mr Ramey as defendant, saying he had been the one who had taken some of the photographs in New . .

Cited by:

See AlsoDouglas and others v Hello! Ltd etc ChD 7-Nov-2003
The claimants had succeeded in a claim of distress occasioned by breach of confidence and breach of the Data Protection Act by the taking and selling of photographs from their wedding.
Held: As to losses, for the magazine who had bought the . .
Appeal fromDouglas and others v Hello! Ltd and others (No 3) CA 18-May-2005
The principal claimants sold the rights to take photographs of their wedding to a co-claimant magazine (OK). Persons acting on behalf of the defendants took unauthorised photographs which the defendants published. The claimants had retained joint . .
CitedBunt v Tilley and others QBD 10-Mar-2006
The claimant sought damages in defamation in respect of statements made on internet bulletin boards. He pursued the operators of the bulletin boards, and the court now considered the liability of the Internet Service Providers whose systems had . .
CitedBunt v Tilley and others QBD 10-Mar-2006
The claimant sought damages in defamation in respect of statements made on internet bulletin boards. He pursued the operators of the bulletin boards, and the court now considered the liability of the Internet Service Providers whose systems had . .
CitedHRH The Duchess of Sussex v Associated Newspapers Ltd ChD 11-Feb-2021
Defence had no prospect of success – Struck Out
The claimant complained that the defendant newspaper had published contents from a letter she had sent to her father. The court now considered her claims in breach of privacy and copyright, and her request for summary judgment.
Held: Warby J . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Media, Information, Intellectual Property, Human Rights

Updated: 23 July 2022; Ref: scu.180704