By Wayne William Cipriano
Hulk Hogan was awarded a gazillion dollars in court the other day for damage done to him when some…ah, unfortunate (?) images of him were transmitted via the Internet.
Hogan maintained that his privacy had been illegally violated to the point that he was materially injured and monetary reparations were appropriate. I didn’t follow the case and know nothing more than that about it, but it got me thinking about celebrity and privacy.
Let us say we enjoy the right to privacy. Some would argue that is not the case, that privacy is not a right, merely an accoutrement of a civil society. But, that is an argument for another day.
If we do have the right to privacy, at what level of celebrity does that right diminish and eventually disappear? Why does a motion picture actor lose the privacy that is granted a plumber due to what the actor does for a living? I don’t understand why a famous magician can be accosted by journalists and photographers after he has made it clear that he does not want to be interviewed or photographed. Why can a successful singer be followed and bedeviled by fans, have her friends and family unendingly disturbed when they are with her just because she is good at what she does, even after she has begged for privacy?
Some might say that notoriety is a two-way street: if you exist in the public eye, are a “celebrity,” you must always be in the public eye, no matter how divorced you wish your public life and your private life to be.
Who decides what level of celebrity obviates whatever right to privacy you may once have had? Conversely, who decides that there are privacy aspects to your life that continue in effect regardless of your celebrity?
Well, Hulk Hogan’s jury seems to have made that decision and it will stand until some other jury, or some appellate jurisdiction, says otherwise.
But this potentially variable “standard” does not help much to settle the question I avoided earlier. Is there a “right” to privacy? Who gets that right? Does it go away in certain circumstances? For how long?
What do you think?