Gossip and Celebrity Tittle Tattle Is Not ‘News’ High Court Rules

What is news? The High Court tackled that thorny issue in an important case, ruling that a photographic agency that dealt primarily in ‘celebrity tittle-tattle’ did not merit being described as a news publisher.

The case concerned a comedian and his wife whose separation had generated a great deal of media interest. They launched harassment proceedings against the agency after an incident in which a pack of photographers was said to have run at the comedian outside their home, shouting questions. The agency admitted that two of its photographers were amongst the group, but denied that they had approached within about 20 metres of the comedian or that they had shouted or behaved aggressively.

The couple’s claim for an injunction was subsequently settled on confidential terms and the agency was entitled to recover its legal costs of the case. In those circumstances, an issue arose as to whether the couple were also obliged to pay a success fee in respect of the work performed by the agency’s solicitors and the £10,600 premium that had been paid on an after the event insurance policy.

In ruling that those sums were not recoverable by the agency, the Court found that it was not a news publisher, within the meaning of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Commencement No.5 and Saving Provision) Order 2013. Gossip stories about the comings and goings of celebrities, in which the agency specialised, were neither news nor comment on current affairs.

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