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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Internet never forgets? BGH allows the publication of the name and age of the underage child of a celebrity

The underage adopted daughter “M” of the famous German TV presenter Günther Jauch has to tolerate press coverage about her person, including details of her first name and age, the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof or short: BGH) held this week (case reference: VI ZR 304/12, so far only the press release of 5 November 2013 is available here). The girl’s general personality right had to yield to the publisher’s freedom of the press since these personal details had already been widely published in the past.

The claimant in the proceedings is the youngest adopted daughter of the celebrity Mr Jauch and his wife.  The defendant is the publishing house Burda.  An article in Burda’s magazine “Viel Spass” (in English: “much fun”) had mentioned the claimant’s name in the context of an article relating to an awards ceremony and the state of Mr and Mrs Jauch’s marriage.  The article, inter alia, included the following sentence:  “She (the mother) stays at home and looks after the 4 children, the two biological daughters Svenja (21) and Kristin (18) and the adopted girls K. (14) and M. (10)."
The lower courts agreed with the claimant “M”, whereas the BGH on further appeal dismissed the action. 

The BGH in its decision acknowledged that the publication of her first name and age affected the girl’s personality right, in particular her right of informational self-determination, under Articles 2(1) and 1(1) German Basic Law in combination with Article 8(1) EHRC.  Nonetheless, the girl had to tolerate the inclusion of these details in the article, despite the fact that the media had a special duty of care when considering whether the public interest in this information could not be satisfied without mentioning the name of the claimant. In this particular case, however, the first name, age and family origin of the girl had already been widely published in the years 2006 to 2008 in media reports about her adoption in 2000 and where thus already known and available to the general public via the Internet . As a result, the BGH found that her personality right was significantly less affected as it would have been if these details had previously been completely private.

The court’s press release does not address whether the previous media reports about M's adoption, which had been consented to by Mr & Mrs Jauch, will always be “binding” to the claimant, who is in essence just a private person who clearly does not have any wish to be in the limelight.  A novel idea for some celebrity offspring perhaps, Merpel muses, but something the court’s decision itself might address?

1 comment:

MaxDrei said...

I see that this case is concerns media reports in the year 2000 about the adoption of M(10). This case had been running then, for about 3 years, before the BGH got to it? I wonder what the Claimant M(13) thinks about that.

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