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Australian Broadcasting Corporation v Lenah Game Meats

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Australian Broadcasting Corporation v Lenah Game Meats [2001] 208 CLF 199

No breach of privacy in relation to footage of meat production processes

Facts

The respondent operated a possum meat processing plant in Tasmania. It sought an injunction to prevent the appellant from broadcasting footage of its meat production processes. The respondent alleged that the footage had been unlawfully obtained by animal rights activists.

Issue

The key issue to be resolved by the High Court of Australia was whether footage taken on private property was private and confidential. The respondent argued that broadcast of the footage would cause it financial harm and would be a breach of privacy. Due to the unconscionability of the how the footage was obtained, the respondent argued that it should be restrained from broadcast. The appellant argued that there was no principle in Australian law which prevented in broadcasting the footage, irrespective of how it came into its possession.

Held

The majority of the Court declined the respondent’s application for injunctive relief. The mere fact that the activities occurred on private property did not render them a “private act.” Protection derives from a combination of the characteristics of the property, nature of the act and the disposition of the property owner. Furthermore, the fact that the footage was obtained improperly did not taint the use or broadcast of the footage by the respondent. Whilst the Court declined to recognise a cause of action for breach of privacy in Australia independent of other laws such as defamation or nuisance, it nevertheless suggested that it may be receptive to arguments that a right to privacy for natural persons could be recognised in future.

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