Mail Online has been ordered to pay damages of £10,000 for breach of privacy to the children of musician Paul Weller after publishing photos taken of them while on a family outing.
The photographs were taken on 16 October 2012 by an unnamed photographer in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and showed Weller and the children out shopping in the street and relaxing at a café on the edge of the street.
"In my judgment, the photographs were published in circumstances where Dylan, Bowie and John Paul had a reasonable expectation of privacy. This was because the photographs showed their faces, one of the chief attributes of their respective personalities, as they were on a family trip out with their father going shopping and to a cafe and they were identified by surname.
"The photographs were different in nature from crowd shots of the street showing unknown children. The photographs showed how Dylan, Bowie and John Paul looked, as children of Paul Weller. The photographs also showed how Dylan, Bowie and John Paul looked on a family day out with their father."
Weller: 'They overstepped the line by taking pictures of the babies'
He said: "My preference would be just to talk about my music but I can also see that would be a very dull interview. It's just chit-chat. There's a big difference between that and someone following you around and taking photos of babies. That's a distinction that needs to be made…
"They overstepped the line with the photos in LA, where they are full frontal pictures of the babies … I don't think the children should be brought into it, not until they are old enough to make their own decisions."
He said Dylan was "entirely intimidated" by the paparazzo who took the photos without consent.
"Even when I asked him to leave, and I thought he had left, I came out and he is still taking photos of a very frightened 16-year-old holding her baby brother. What kind of person is that anyway?"
Mrs Weller told the court: "The image of their face should be controlled by their parents and not on a national website. It is part of my job as a mother to control who sees that information."
"The photographs showed nothing more than Paul Weller and three of his children out and about in public places. There was no claim and no finding that we had followed, harassed or targeted Mr Weller or his children and no request had ever been made to pixellate the children's faces.
"Our publication of the images was entirely in line with the law in California where they were taken by a freelance photographer.
"The suggestion that children have an expectation of privacy in relation to publication by the media of images of their faces when one child (now nearly 18) has modelled for Teen Vogue, images of the babies' naked bottoms have been tweeted by their mother, and their father has discussed the children in promotional interviews is a worrying development in our law, as it has conferred unfettered image rights on all the children.
"Mail Online is now a global business competing with other US-based websites who operate under the freedom of the First Amendment.
"Two-thirds of MailOnline's audience are now resident outside of the UK where readers will be baffled if they are denied material freely available on dozens of other sites around the world.
"This judgment has wide-ranging and serious consequences not only for local, national and international digital journalism but for anyone posting pictures of children on social networks. We intend to appeal."
A dozen of the UK's leading legal minds will explain what the Defamation Act 2013 means for journalists and the media at a unique conference being organised by Press Gazette in London on 19 June. The cost of defending a libel action at trial can be more than £1m, tickets for Defamation 2014 start from £89+VAT
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