25 April 2017Jurisdiction reportsJens Künzel

The price of being famous

Both have a strong and direct link to traditional IP rights, not least because practitioners of IP matters are sometimes also concerned with matters of personal rights. A recent case decided by Germany’s Federal Court of Justice may provide some additional guidance on the extent and limitations of publishing information about a famous person’s personal health.

Just after Michael Schumacher, the world-famous former German Formula 1 driver and world champion, had a skiing accident in late 2013 from which he suffered severe craniocerebral injuries, certain German tabloids and online magazines started a competition of sorts about the latest news and reports about the state of his health and the success of his rehabilitation.

Several times, the relatives of Schumacher—on his behalf—had to resort to judicial help in order to safeguard him from press reports that infringed his constitutionally protected personal rights, mainly his right to privacy.

In November 2016, the Federal Court of Justice had to finally decide a case which concerned a lengthy report on Schumacher’s medical condition and progress he had made in rehabilitation. The report was published in June 2014 in a well-known German tabloid magazine.

Schumacher sought injunctive relief with regard to seven different statements that fell into two different groups: they either directly concerned his current state of health, or they described certain medical treatments or measures for neurorehabilitation that Schumacher allegedly had to go through.

The Cologne Court of Appeal had affirmed a restraining order that prohibited all seven statements. The Court of Appeal held that all the statements ultimately concerned the plaintiff’s health and details of his life that were private circumstances largely shielded from the public eye.

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