For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Prince Harry, strip billiards and privacy in Vegas

The IPKat does some field research into
 the royal and ancient game of billiards
In the past 24 hours it has been difficult to escape the hype involving an expensive hotel suite in Las Vegas, pretty girls on a bachelorette party, a game of strip billiards, and two grainy photos of a naked Prince Harry taken on a mobile phone. Normally the saying is ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ – unless you happen to be Prince Harry and find that such photos go viral after they were first published yesterday on US celebrity gossip website TMZ. Indeed, such is the appetite for the pictures that a search on Google for ‘Prince Harry Las Vegas photos’ reveals unique 115,000,000 hits.

One photo shows Prince Harry, naked except for a wristwatch and a distinctive necklace. He is facing the television on the wall in the suite, with his hands cupping his crown jewels and with his body partially shielding a naked woman. In the other photo, a naked Prince Harry is hugging a naked woman from behind next to a billiard table. The photos have been available on many prominent websites, newspapers and other news broadcasts, such as NBC, CNN, the LA Times, TIME and the Huffington Post in the US, the Toronto Sun, the Vancouver Sun and CBC in Canada, the Daily Life and Ninemsn in Australia and the Hindustan Times in India.

This Kat understands that the two photos were being offered for sale in the UK for £10,000 by the Splash News picture agency and that approximately 10 British and Irish newspapers expressed an interest in buying them for their online and print editions. She further understands that some of these British newspapers contacted St James’ Palace to enquire as to what would be its reaction, should they proceed to purchase and publish the photos.

A formal response came yesterday afternoon in the form of a letter from Prince Charles’ lawyers Harbottle & Lewis which was circulated by the Press Complaints Commission. It read:
The photographs in question were taken on an entirely private occasion and in those circumstances there was a more than reasonable expectation of privacy. No matter of public interest (as those words are understood in English law) is raised by these photographs. The fact that they have appeared in another jurisdiction is meaningless. The only possible reason for publication of the photographs is one of prurience and nothing more. As such any publication would be a clear breach of Clause 3 of the PCC Code [which provides that ‘it is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent’].
The letter ended by warning that, if publication of the photos were to occur, St James’s Palace ‘entirely reserve their rights as to any further steps’. The covering note to the letter stated that the Press Complaints Commission was ‘happy’ to pass on St James’s Palace's concerns to the relevant managing editors of its members.

So far no British titles have published the photos, either in online or in print [possibly because the British media assume that publication of Royal nudes during the cusp between the Olympics and the Paralympics is a criminal offence under the UK's swingeing Olympic legislation, muses Merpel ...], but three Irish titles have done so including the Daily Star and the Evening Herald. The drama has raised some interesting privacy-related questions: is it pointless trying to claim privacy in the UK when the photos have gone viral on the internet? Is the Press Complaints Commission a toothless tiger? [No, no, says the IPKat. A toothless tiger can suck harder than the PCC can bite]  Has the Leveson Inquiry had a chilling effect on the British press?

Keith Gladdis and Lucy Osborne, writing in the Daily Mail, made no attempt to hide their displeasure at being unable to publish the photos while claiming that ‘68 MILLION people looked it up online’. The BBC’s Torin Douglas commented that ‘British papers may not have printed the pictures of Prince Harry, but they have reported the furore in full detail - and told readers where they can find the photos’.

Peter Willis (editor of the Daily Mirror) said that the situation had demonstrated that self-regulation by the PCC was working.

Here's a possible
product for royal
endorsement ...
In a blog on the Huffington Post, Neil Wallis (former executive editor of the [former] News of the World) said that Lord Justice Leveson had ‘neutered the great British press and made it a laughing stock. And that is a damned disgrace’. Similarly, blogger Guido Fawkes (one of the few websites in the UK to publish the photos) stated: ‘This situation illustrates the threat to a free press in Britain. The truth is the old media have been scared into submission by the Leveson Inquiry’. [Merpel thinks this is all nonsense. The UK press was neutered years ago by its inability to compete with the social media and its craven addiction to paid-for advertising. Or is this a trifle unfair?] Finally, blogger Fleet Street Fox wrote that newspapers have been ‘painted into a corner, with one eye on their budgets which mean they need to avoid unnecessary court costs, and another on the line they don't want to cross before that report is written, just in case they make things any worse’.

The IPKat is mildly amused by all the fuss about the naked prince with his hand cupping his crown jewels. After all, it's not unreasonable to expect that we Brits will soon have a Willy on the throne ...

Merpel, always of the modest kind, has never been involved in a game of strip anything -- not least because she never wears anything except her fur coat. However, after Prince Harry’s experience, she thinks it wise for human participants to wear several more layers of clothing than just a swim suit.

1 comment:

Philip said...

One of the photos is the entire front page of the Sun this morning, so I think everybody's seen it now.

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