Tough Paparazzi Laws in France Could Benefit Brangelina
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
PARIS — Perhaps Brangelina chose southern France for its blue skies, vineyards and the availability of an estate with a moat. But there's another reason the world's most famous expecting couple was smart to come here: French law is tough on paparazzi, especially when it comes to snapping photos of children.
That could come in handy after the birth of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's twins — particularly if they hope to sell rights to the first baby pictures for millions.
In France, where the Jolie-Pitts are believed to be setting up house to prepare for the births of children Nos. 5 and 6, other celebrities have waged war on gossip magazines with relentless, precedent-setting lawsuits.
Often, the tactic pays: Monaco's royal family grossed $681,120 through lawsuits in France in 2006, the newspaper Le Figaro has reported. On top of fines, magazines are regularly ordered to slap huge "mea culpa" notices across their covers.
"This country is medieval in terms of its legislation about printing information about celebrities," fumed Loic Sellin, editor of glossy Voici magazine. "It's shameful. Absolutely everything can be considered an attack on someone's private life."
Case in point: Former presidential candidate Segolene Royal won more than $12,000 from Paris Match magazine after it ran photos of her praying in an Italian church.
The lines are blurry and debatable, but there's general agreement on the need to shield children from the media glare. To avoid lawsuits, magazines regularly blur out the faces of celebrities' children or simply pull the photos.
The four Jolie-Pitt children — 6-year-old Maddox, 4-year-old Pax, 3-year-old Zahara and 2-year-old Shiloh — are an exception, simply because they have been seen out in public so often.
But if any magazines were to obtain snapshots of Jolie and her as-yet-unborn twins, two French lawyers say they would counsel them to blur the babies' faces in most cases. Jolie has said in the past that the babies are due in August but there has been no further word.
"Let's say she went to the French Open with her children, I would say, 'she's out in public and knows she'll be seen, there's no reason to ban the photo,"' said lawyer Daphne Juster, who regularly defends photographers. "But if she's strolling in the park in sunglasses, minding her own business, she could say, 'I tried to be discreet, this is not part of my public life,' and can sue."
Emmanuel Pierrat, who defends both gossip magazines and celebrities, said he might urge magazines to run photos of the babies snuggling up against their mother, or turned from the camera, so their faces do not show. Of course, he says, "some would take the risk anyway."
In which case, he said, there would be an added incentive for Jolie and Pitt to sue: The couple sold exclusive photos of Shiloh to People magazine for a reported $4 million and donated the money to charity, a practice they're likely to duplicate, with rumors brewing of a bidding war inching toward $10 million this time around.
There is no indication that paparazzi laws played a role in the actors' decision to settle in the Provence village of Correns, in a sprawling stone villa with a tile roof and blue shutters.
The town's mayor says they have moved in already, and a helicopter has been spotted taking off and landing at the site, but it is unclear if the couple is actually there. Though Pitt has been glimpsed nearby in Italy and Switzerland, Jolie has remained out of sight since the Cannes Film Festival in May.