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Photos would reignite privacy row
The publication of topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge has rekindled a row over royal privacy and the responsibilities of the media.
Pictures of Prince Harry frolicking naked in a Las Vegas hotel last month went viral on the internet after they were published by US gossip website TMZ.
The publication prompted a media frenzy and ignited a heated ethical debate over whether newspapers in this country should use them.
St James's Palace asked the UK's newspapers, through the press watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), to respect Harry's privacy and not publish the photos.
After initially complying with the request, on August 24 The Sun decided to print the pictures, under the headline "Heir it is!".
The Sun's managing editor, David Dinsmore, said the paper had "thought long and hard" about whether to use the pictures, and said it was an issue for press freedom rather than because it was moralising on the Prince's actions.
The newspaper said the photos represented "a crucial test of Britain's free press", and argued it was "vital" that it ran them.
Underpinning its argument was the fact that the photos were readily accessible online to millions of people around the world, but that The Sun's readers could not see them in the paper.
The Sun's editorial that day said: "It is absurd that in the internet age newspapers like The Sun could be stopped from publishing stories and pictures already seen by millions on the free-for-all that is the web."
Other newspapers held firm with their decision not to publish, partly due to fears of repercussions from Lord Justice Leveson, who is heading an inquiry into press practices.
The PCC has received more than 3,600 complaints about the photos of Harry appearing in The Sun, but it has so far said it would be "inappropriate" to open an investigation as it has not received a complaint from royal representatives.
St James's Palace said at the time it was still considering its response.
Jean-Michel Psaila, chief editor of Abaca Press photo agency in France, said: "The law in France is very strict.
"Everything inside a property is forbidden to be shot, you can't do any pictures, to protect the privacy of the people, even if you're outside the property. If you're outside and shoot inside the property, it's forbidden.
"There's always this debate between the freedom of the press and what you can do, and the limit of what you can do as a journalist."
He said if the magazine was taken to court, it would undoubtedly lose, but may have decided that the risk was worth it.
"Magazines need circulation and more and more as the entertainment magazines lose readers they try to find a way to find stories and this kind of story will grow the circulation of the magazines because everyone will buy it.
"I think if they go to court they will get a big amount of money from the magazine, but will it repair the privacy? It is too late."
Charlotte Harris, partner at law firm Mishcon de Reya, said when she first heard the photographs had been published, she thought it was a UK media publication.
"That in itself would have been absolutely shocking, particularly as the consensus in the UK, for whatever grey areas we talk about in the privacy world, is that this would be totally unacceptable and certainly private.
"When I found out this was the French press, it was a different kind of shock.
"It was a bit of a 'French Revolution' in terms of their views on privacy, that they'd gone ahead even though the French legal system is very clear about this not being something that in the past they'd condoned."
She went on: "The photographs of the Duchess were taken in private and on holiday. The damage that has been done to the Duchess isn't just the fact the photographs have been published in one jurisdiction, it's the fact that we know about the photographs at all.
"That in itself, the knowledge of the existence of these photographs, is an infringement into privacy. It gives some information about how the Duchess spends her private time, an aspect of her private life.
"What is interesting here is that 10 or 15 years ago, or even five years ago, the publication of these pictures may have caused debate about the Duchess and her appropriateness, whereas now we're actually talking about the appropriateness of the publisher, not the person who is being published, and the reason for this is because the consciousness of the public has changed in terms of what they find acceptable."
She said she hoped the UK press would take a responsible approach, adding: "For once, we all agree - the photographs shouldn't have been published and those who did publish them should worry about their reputations as opposed to the reputation of the Duchess."