BY ERIQ GARDNER
Leonardo DiCaprio has gotten a French court to order the magazine Oops! to print a condemnation of its story alleging that the actor got pop star Rihanna pregnant and then didn’t want the baby. DiCaprio was also awarded damages of €8,000, but what will be peculiar to Americans is how the French court reached its decision.
The ruling was not based on a defamation claim per se, but rather an amalgam of defamation and privacy where the truth or falsity of the story wasn’t essential to the court’s verdict.
The judge’s opinion is only available in French at the moment, but according to a rough English translation, “the particularly intimate nature of such revelation” — DiCaprio’s supposed attitude toward a pregnant Rihanna — and the “absence of any evidence to accredit … the accuracy of the facts alleged” combined with “the interference with privacy” means that Oops! can’t defend its article as “legitimate public information.”
This is noteworthy as American courts recognize no such thing as the legal concept being applied known as “false privacy.” Imagine if they did. Journalism in this country would be vastly different. The truth of information wouldn’t necessary matter. Only the intimate nature of the information and whether there was enough reportorial support. In short, whether journalists were reckless with regards to an individual’s privacy. And the harm would be something for publishers to rebut rather than for plaintiffs to demonstrate.
In this case, Oops! attempted to argue that DiCaprio never denied a relationship with Rihanna and spoke about his private life in media interviews, but the French court said that a salacious story on the cover ofOops! was “inherently likely to cause serious harm” to the actor. Moreover, it ruled that the actor’s “alleged appeasement towards the media is not established.”
The €8,000 goes to compensate DiCaprio for “moral damages resulting from violence to his private life and his image rights,” and even more astounding is what comes next.
The French court ordered Oops! to print on its next cover in bold capital red letters “OOPS! SENTENCED TO DEMAND FOR LEONARDO DI CAPRIO” followed without further comment by this statement: “By order of 27 July 2015, the judge of the High Court of Paris ordered the company editor of OOPS! Magazine to pay provisional compensation to Leonardo Di Caprio for having published in its issue 188, 13 to 28 in May 2015, an article with the respect for his privacy and his image rights.”
Judging by the latest reactions of Oops! owner Frederic Truskolaski — who calls DiCaprio “a pervert” whose lawsuit was based on a “racial issue” — this feud hardly seems over.