The UK’s Press Complaints Commission (“PCC”) recently rejected a claim from a woman that an article published in the magazine Loaded violated her right of privacy under the Editors’ Code of Practice. The article featured the woman’s name and a number of photographs of her taken from the Internet. Readers were offered a reward of £500 for assistance in encouraging her to do a photo shoot. Although the pictures had originally been posted to the woman’s page on Bebo (a social networking site), they had been taken from that site and distributed widely over the Internet by others. The magazine did not obtain the pictures from Bebo. The PCC said the case raised the important principle of the extent to which newspapers and magazines are able to make use of information that is already freely available online and found the test, therefore, was “whether the publication intruded into the complainant’s privacy, and the Code required the Commission to have regard to ‘the extent to which material is already in the public domain.’ In the Commission’s view, the information, in the same form as published in the magazine, was widely available to such an extent that its republication did not raise a breach of the Code.”

TIP: While some additional leeway and flexibility may be given to newspapers and magazines that reprint content found online, this case reminds companies to be careful when pulling and using content where no rights have been obtained from the photographer or the individual featured in the photographs.