In a high-profile privacy lawsuit, former pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan won a $115 million jury verdict against Gawker for posting his sex video without his consent. Hulk Hogan, whose real name is TerryBollea, brought a lawsuit for invasion of privacy and other torts. Under one of the main privacy torts — public disclosure of private facts — one can be liable if one widely and publicly discloses private information about another that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person and not of legitimate concern to the public.
All posts in Privacy Torts
By Daniel J. Solove
This post is co-authored by Professor Neil Richards
The case illustrates several fascinating aspects of the developing global law of privacy, with big implications for online marketing, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.
At first blush, it is easy to see the case as one more divergence between how privacy is protected in the EU and US, with a European Court once again showing how much eager it is to protect privacy than an American one. But the biggest takeaway from the case is not one of divergence; it is one of convergence!
by Daniel J. Solove
In a recent AP story, actress Jennifer Lawrence had some rather extensive and passionate quotes about her loss of privacy. Not too long ago, Lawrence’s nude photos were stolen and leaked on the Internet by a hacker who hacked into her iCloud account. In her comments for the AP story, she lamented how much paparazzi were harassing her: “I knew the paparazzi were going to be a reality in my life. . . . But I didn’t know that I would feel anxiety every time I open my front door, or that being chased by 10 men you don’t know, or being surrounded, feels invasive and makes me feel scared and gets my adrenaline going every day.”
“It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting.
The law needs to be changed, and we need to change.”
— Jennifer Lawrence on her nude photos being
non-consensually disclosed online
Fairly recently, Jennifer Lawrence’s iCloud account was hacked and her private nude photos were stolen and posted online. She was mortified.
Her case is just one of many, according to Professor Danielle Citron (University of Maryland School of Law), who very recently published a book about online harassment, Hate Crimes in Cyberspace (Harvard University Press 2014).
It is a compelling and provocative book. It is a bold book. And as the recent news stories indicate, it is a book that couldn’t be more timely and more needed. One might think that online harassment is rare. Who would write such mean and vile things? What kind of person would harass Zelda Williams, the daughter of Robin Williams, who was viciously attacked online immediately after her father’s death? Even Caligula would show more humanity.
Jessica Bennett at Newsweek brought my attention to a story about the family of the killer whale trainer (Dawn Brancheau) who was killed while training the whale at SeaWorld:
Brancheau’s family announced this week that they would seek an injunction to protect the release of the death imagery, captured by SeaWorld’s surveillance cameras on Feb. 24. And though the video has not yet been publicly released, it’s presently in the hands of the Florida Orange County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the woman’s death.
According to FoxNews:
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office, who now has the video, has received several calls from sources trying to obtain copies of the video, the Orlando Sentinel reported.Once the Orange County Sheriff’s Office concludes its investigation, the material would become public under Florida law. . . .
Brancheau’s family said through a spokesman that public airing of the killing would only worsen their grief.They could seek a court injunction to stop the release, at least temporarily. The family has been consulting the lawyer who represented Dale Earnhardt’s widow in a court fight over his autopsy photos.
I believe that the Brancheau family has a good case. They want to prevent the sad events that happened to the family of Nikki Catsouras, whose gruesome accident death photos started appearing all over the Internet. In that case, the court held that the family could bring common law privacy claims against the police department for improperly leaking the photographs.
Cutler’s blog, written under the pseudonym Washingtonienne, was a daily diary of her sex life while working as a staffer for Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio). It recounted, entertainingly and in considerable — sometimes embarrassing — detail, her ongoing relationships with six men, including [the] plaintiff. . . .
Although McClurg notes that the plaintiff “suffered a genuine wrong,” he also states that the law “appears to be against him” because he “does not allege that any of the statements about him are untrue.” McClurg notes that the plaintiff is suing under the public disclosure of private facts tort, which “provides a remedy when one publicizes private, embarrassing, non-newsworthy facts about a person in a manner that reasonable people would find highly offensive.” McClurg notes that “while Cutler’s actions may meet this standard, courts have long been hostile to such lawsuits because of a fear of inhibiting free speech.” McClurg continues:
In 1989 the court tossed out a lawsuit against a newspaper for publishing a rape victim’s name in violation of Florida law. While it stopped short of ruling that a state may never punish true speech, the test it adopted for when that can be done without violating the First Amendment is so stringent Justice Byron White lamented in dissent that the court had “obliterate[d]” the public disclosure tort.
Not so. Time after time the Supreme Court has explicitly carved out space for the public disclosure tort to exist. In the series of cases involving the First Amendment and privacy restrictions on true speech, the Court has always confined the First Amendment to speech about matters “of public significance.” The Court did this in Smith v. Daily Mail Pub. Co., 443 U.S. 97, 103 (1979) as well as its most recent case on the issue, Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001), where the Court held that “privacy concerns give way when balanced against the interest in publishing matters of public importance.” Id. at 534.