Featured Book

Outrageous Invasions: Celebrities’ Private Lives, Media, and the Law by Robin D. Barnes. Published by Oxford in 2010.

The balance between freedom of the press and the right to privacy has evolved over the past forty years, and celebrities are routinely subjected to public disclosure of their private lives—in “outrageous invasions.” The book describes the legal battles waged by celebrities in both Europe and the United States against the press that stalks, harasses, and exposes their private lives to the public eye.

Analyzing cases from the courts of Europe and the United States Supreme Court, Professor Barnes demonstrates that Europeans are better protected than Americans when privacy rights are defended in court. She states that: “In relation to rules that govern stalking, defamation, and invasions of privacy carried out by paparazzi on behalf of public media outlets, the most striking difference is evident in the European Union’s concerted efforts to ‘get it right’”. The European Charter of Fundamental Rights protects development of personality and respects private life. Since the passage of the Human Rights and Data Protection Acts of 1998, there have been more concerted efforts to deal with media intrusion—both the direct “camping out at the entrance and exits of media targets” and indirect “telephoto lens or concealed camera and parabolic microphones … or searching through private spaces.”

In the United States, even fundamental privacy rights have been weakened and are routinely ignored if the person involved is a celebrity. For example, video footage from the trial of pop singer Chris Brown included private and privileged conversations with his lawyer and the victim’s lawyer that were supposedly “caught” by a microphone. This violation of the legal protection of privileged communications between lawyer and client resulted in no call for an investigation into what recording device was used to “catch” the conversation and who placed it.

The book looks at the role and nature of privacy in the United States and Europe and its relationship to the rise of the “infotainment” culture. The picture painted of American culture and its demand for the most intimate details of celebrity lives is not a pretty one.