J. K. Rowling’s son in privacy fight

Photo agency seeks dismissal of claim in relation to pictures of author's child

The defendant at the centre of a privacy row involving photographs of Harry Potter author, J. K. Rowling’s son, has gone to the High Court this week to try and strike out his claim.


Over three days Mr Justice Patten, in the Chancery Division, has been considering an application by Big Pictures (UK) Ltd, a photographic agency which specialises in photographs of celebrities, to strike out a claim brought against it by David Murray, the 4 year-old son of Ms Rowling.


The claim, which alleges misuse of private information and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998, centres on a photograph of David, which was taken when he was a 1 year-old, being pushed down a street in Edinburgh by his parents in his pushchair at a time when his mother was pregnant with David’s younger sister.


Big Pictures contend that David’s case discloses no cause of action known to English law. The case, and the Defendant’s application, raise squarely the question of whether and, if so, the extent to which the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in von Hannover v Germany expands the scope of protection for personal privacy beyond that delineated by the House of Lords in Campbell v MGN Ltd.  It also asks how the principles in Campbell are to be applied when the claimant is a young child.


Mr Justice Patten today reserved judgment.


Big Pictures are represented by 5RB‘s Mark Warby QC and Jonathan Barnes, while 5RB‘s Godwin Busuttil is junior counsel for the Claimant.