Image rights: the mere capture of a person without his authorization gives rise to a right to compensation


In a recent decision of June 2, 2021, the Court of Cassation (FRANCE had the opportunity to come back on the notion of image rights, particularly when the capture and unauthorized commercialization of an image from an Internet site is at issue

Originally, on 19 July 2015, a news magazine published photography of an American actor, taken without permission on a beach.

On August 3, the actor sued the press magazine and the photographic press agency “in order to obtain, on the basis of Articles 9 of the Civil Code and 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, their order to pay him a certain amount of damages as compensation for his moral prejudice, and the prohibition of marketing the picture.”

The Court of Appeal considered, contrary to the first judges, that “in the absence of any proof of the marketing of [the] photograph by the magazine“, the defendants could not be held liable. In response to a request for “condemnation of the company KCS Presse for the dissemination of several photographs bearing the mention KCS Presse/Splash News published on English-language websites“, the Court dismissed the actor’s claim, “in the absence of proof either of public dissemination on the internet or of marketing by the company KCS Presse to these four sites“.

After having appealed to the Supreme Court, the judges of 5 Quai de l’Horloge (PARIS FRANCE) censured the decision of the Court of Appeal, recalling that “the individual’s control of his or her image implies in most cases the possibility of refusing the dissemination of his or her image and includes at the same time the right for him or her to object to the capture, conservation and reproduction of the image by others. As the image is one of the characteristics attached to the personality of each individual, its effective protection presupposes, in principle, the consent of the individual from the moment of its capture and not only at the moment of its possible dissemination to the public[1].

Based on Article 9 of the Civil Code and Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Court of Cassation affirmed that “the right that a person has over his or her image relates to its capture, conservation, reproduction and use and that the mere fact that there has been an infringement gives rise to a right to compensation. “.

Thus, the Court of Cassation guarantees “as a matter of principle the right of any person to oppose the capture, conservation and reproduction of his or her image by others” and considers “that the Court of Appeal, by reducing the possible fault of the company KCS Presse with regard to the actor to the sole marketing of the stolen photograph, has disregarded the aforementioned texts. “.

UGGC Avocats and its team specialised in media & communication law and press law remain at your disposal for any questions on this subject.

By the IP-IT-Media team of UGGC Avocats.

Source : Cour de cassation, Chambre civile 1, 2 juin 2021, 20-13.753,  published in the Bulletin

[1] See ECHR, judgment of 15 January 2009, Reklos and Davourlis v. Greece, no. 1234/05, § 40 or ECHR, judgment of 27 May 2014, de la Flor Cabrera v. Spain, no. 10764/09, § 31

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