Posting pictures of a celebrity without their consent creates a damage that must be compensated

The Court of Cassation, with order no. 17217 of June 16th 2021, reiterated the compensation for financial damage in the case of unlawful publication of celebrities’ personal data.

The story, which began in 2009, had as its protagonist an internationally renowned actor photographed while being intimate with his partner during a holiday in Italy.

The images had been published by some Italian gossip magazines without the consent of the actor, who had immediately reported the accident to the  Italian Data Protection Authority and sued the publishers responsible for compensation for damages.

In particular, the actor claimed to have suffered a non-pecuniary damage due to the violation of his right to confidentiality, but also a financial damage due to the illicit economic exploitation of his image: all this, quantified in a total of 4 million euros.

The Court of Milan had recognized the illegality of the publication, condemning the defendants to a compensation for damage quantified in 300 thousand euros.

However, in 2016 the Court of Appeal of Milan had partially reformed the decision of the first judge, further reducing the damage to be compensated to the amount of 40 thousand euros. In fact, according to the Court of Appeal, the financial damage had to be excluded precisely because the actor had denied consent to the publication of images of his private life, thus denying the same possibility of the economic exploitation of such images.

Today the Court of Cassation has once again overturned the decision, expressly recognizing also the compensation for financial damage. In fact, the actor in question is an Oscar winner known all over the world, whose image values millions of euros precisely because he has never sold personal images.

But the choice not to publish one’s own image is not irreversible and, above all, it does not imply a renunciation of the right to the image. This right – clarifies the Court – can also be exercised by choosing not to exploit economically one’s personal data if the exploitation is considered harmful.

The Court therefore states that, in the event of multiple violations of the law due to the publication and disclosure of photographs without the consent of the owner, the right to compensation for financial damage cannot be excluded; damage that can be quantified by the judge even in an equitable way.