Saturday, September 15, 2012

Royals sic lawyers to fight topless Kate photos - USA TODAY

Now it begins: British royals quickly filed a lawsuit against a French magazine that today published topless photos of Duchess Kate obtained surreptitiously by a photographer in Provence where she and Prince William vacationed last weekend, according to the Associated Press and British media reports.

But don't expect this case to end up in court some day with public testimony from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, no matter how furious or sad they might be about the invasion of their privacy. The couple are continuing their Diamond Jubilee tour of Southeast Asia; they arrived in Borneo, Malaysia, this evening and are preparing to visit tropical rainforest on Saturday.

Back in London, palace officials strongly condemned the "grotesque" photos, the photographer and the French celeb magazine, Closer, comparing it to the bad old days when William's late mother, Princess Diana, was hounded by paparazzi. By filing suit, the royals and their lawyers are taking the first step in an attempt to punish the magazine and the photographer, and prevent it happening again, says British photographer Frank Griffin, co-founder of Los Angeles-based Bauer-Griffin celebrity photo agency.

So far, no British publications have run the blurry photos, which show Duchess Kate sunbathing topless at a swimming pool apparently visible from a nearby road. Griffin estimates the photos were taken from about 300 yards away by a lone photographer hiding on the estate, a chateau accessible by local residents. The pictures are blurry because of heat haze during the day, he says.

The couple's representatives at Clarence House palace want to ensure no other intimate photographs are published, and that other paparazzi will think twice before trying something similar in the future, Griffin says. The editor of the magazine has defended the photos and wants to sell them to other magazines willing to publish.

"Clarence House will appoint French lawyers who will go to Closer, tell them we will let you off hook if you give us the name (of the photographer), and then they will destroy him with lawsuits," says Griffin, who says he's gotten into similar tussles with the palace over royal photos in the past. "They will make an example of him, and stick his head on a pole" like a modern version of medieval executions.

Griffin says he doesn't know who the photographer is, but says he (or she) should lie low. He estimates the photos sold for less than $50,000 because there's no competition for them, not even in the USA. He thinks that self-restraint will hold because there's no "public interest," as was argued in the case of publication of photos of Prince Harry naked in a Las Vegas hotel room last month.

"It's a commercial issue about whether they can sell enough (copies) to outweigh potential legal consequences from civil liability (for violating the couple's) reasonable expectations of privacy," Griffin says. Closer, a relatively new mag, has now put itself on the celebrity map and will likely sell zillions more magazines, he predicts.

Does the episode further damage the already tattered reputation of celebrity paparazzi? "I don't think they've had a good name since the death of Diana (in 1997), but in the end it's not the photographer, or the publisher or the editor, it's down to the general public who are going to go out and buy a copy. "

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