July was a great month for J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix hit the big screen and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series, was published.
However, this month has not started so well. There was nothing that J. K. (or even Harry Potter) could do to protect her son, David, 4, from Mr Justice Patten striking out David’s claim against Big Pictures, a celebrity picture agency.
So what was the case about? In November 2004, when David was 18 months old, he was photographed with his parents being pushed in his buggy in a public street in Edinburgh. The pictures were taken by a Big Pictures photographer and one snap appeared in a number of newspapers as well as the Sunday Express magazine on April 3, 2005.
Shortly after publication in the Sunday Express, court proceedings were issued against Express Newspapers and Big Pictures and now, two years on, with the Express having settled long ago, David’s case against Big Pictures has been thrown out.
Although the case put together by David’s parents (assisted by Schillings and Richard Spearman, QC) was fairly elaborate, the essential issues raised were relatively simple. David claimed that the taking and publication of this particular photograph entitled him to damages for breach of confidence or misuse of private information and to compensation under the Data Protection Act 1998. He sought a variety of injunctions against Big Pictures, including one that would have essentially prevented Big Pictures from taking a photograph of him ever again.