Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

New Book Forthcoming On Celebs and the Media

Robin Barnes, University of Connecticut, has published Outrageous Invasions: The Defamation and Harassment Surrounding Media Invasion of Celebrities' Private Lives (forthcoming from Oxford University Press, 2009). Here is an abstract for the book.
Cause Celebre, the French aphorism for famous lawsuit or surprising legal victory, is the best way to describe the June 2004 ruling of one of the World's most respected courts. As a matter of great social and political importance, the international community owes a great debt to Caroline Von Hannover, Princess of Monaco. Her longstanding determination prompted Europe's high court, in Case of Von Hannover v. Germany, to radically alter the extent to which the media can arbitrarily disrupt the private lives of the rich and famous.

Barnes highlights the seeming widespread immunity from liability granted to tabloid publishers in celebrity defamation cases, utilizing traditional press guarantees. This book chronicles the world of entertainment, the constitutional goals of a free press, and the legal battles of celebrities in the U.S. and EU against an entertainment press corps over invasion of their private lives.

Barnes draws upon Constitutional theory to demonstrate that the validity of our code of civility is under attack. We outlaw the behaviors commonly attributed to journalists, editors and photographers under rules designed to enforce communal norms and responsibilities. Ignoring their destruction of the substance and boundaries of community life is a violation that strikes at the heart of constitutional democracy. Celebrity citizens are routinely subjected to stalking, harassment, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation, in clear violation of their constitutional rights.

Specific cases are introduced for analyzing the avowed purpose of a free press, and the nature of privacy in a democracy. The evolution of the entertainment press and the emergence of infotainment as a news format have prompted the Court to expand the legal categories that subject individuals to a lower standard of protection in actions for defamation.

Barnes assists the reader in identifying the universally recognized values that serve to distinguish public from private realms of authority, and how such conditions enable democracies to flourish. The process of erecting institutional democracy requires legal enforcement of certain prerequisites, especially as they pertain to the social and psychological conditions secured by individual rights.

As a matter of human right, every individual is entitled to protection for that sphere of privacy that guards familial dignity and shelters development of personal and political consciousness. This guarantee blunts the force of current legal trends toward elevating such loosely-defined concepts as the "public's right to know." Legal developments in the EU effectively secure personal power to shape the public images that represent who we are as free individuals. Barnes analyzes the doctrinal developments in cases comparing jurisprudence in the United States with ruling issued by the High Courts of Europe to demonstrate that American celebrities are entitled to, but not receiving the same protections as their European counterparts. Through this work, Barnes invites debate about the role of the press, and the importance of preserving long-cherished rights of privacy for the future of western democracy from an etymological, ethical and practical perspective.

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