Celebrity couple lose fight over publication of photos
CALIFORNIA–A federal District Court judge in Los Angeles ruled in mid-March that celebrities Tommy and Pamela Anderson Lee could not sue Penthouse magazine for publishing intimate photos of the couple.
The couple argued that their image was exploited by the magazine and their privacy had been invaded because they had not granted the magazine permission to use the photos for commercial purposes. The judge declared that the magazine could not be found liable because the pictures accompanied a “newsworthy” article.
The June 1996 article described characteristics of the Lees’ life, including Pamela Anderson’s marriage to her husband, a member of the Motley Crue rock band, as well as her career. The sexually explicit photos of the Lees were allegedly stolen from their home. However, the pictures had been republished from other foreign editions of Penthouse as well as Screw magazine, an American publication. The judge ruled that since the pictures had already been published, they were not considered private and the magazine could not be liable for public release of private information.
Although the court noted that the publications exploited the couple to gain attention, the judge said that the couple was well- known and had disclosed private information to audiences previously, and that the story in the magazine did not reveal any additional information about the couple to readers.
The court held that under California law, using a name or picture of a famous person does not automatically constitute use for “commercial purposes,” since using these characteristics in a “newsworthy” manner exempts publications from liability. (Lee v. Penthouse International; Media Counsel: Ronald Beck, Long Beach)