Douglas v Hello Ltd

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Last modified: 07/03/18 Author: In-house law team

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Douglas v Hello! Ltd (No. 3) [2005] EWCA Civ 595

Tort – Economic loss – Unlawful interference – Breach of Confidence – damages

Facts:

The Douglases were a celebrity couple who sold exclusive photography rights of their wedding to OK! Magazine. An unauthorised freelance photographer gained access to the wedding and sold pictures to Hello! Magazine, a rival competitor. The Douglases sought an interlocutory injunction restraining publication which was initially granted, but then lifted several days later. OK! Magazine brought their publication forward to compete, incurring expenses. OK! And the Douglases sued for damages.

Issues:

Whether OK! Magazine and the Douglases had a right to commercial confidence over the wedding photos that were published in the public domain.

Held:

The appeal was allowed on the basis that the Douglases and OK! Magazine were entitled to a commercial confidence over the wedding photos as the photos were not publicly available so were confidential, even though information about the wedding was generally available for people to communicate. There was found to be economic loss that arose from Hello! Magazine’s interference, constituting an intentional act. The photographs had a commercial value and therefore demonstrated the need for confidentiality. The Douglases were entitled to protect the confidentiality that Hello! Magazine and the unauthorised photographer were intent on destroying. Thus, even though OK! published the photographs before Hello!, this did not mean the photos were in the public domain and no longer subject to confidence. Each photograph was intended to convey the visual information of their wedding and that each picture would be treated as a separate piece of information that OK! had an exclusive right to publish. This right was deliberately interfered with. Thus, the Douglases were entitled to damages for breach of confidence and interference by Hello! Magazine.

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