You are on your property, at your pool, sunbathing, partially nude. You are alone. An eight-foot wall protects your privacy, as well as the sensitivities, if any, of your neighbors and the community.
A stealth photographer scales the wall, trespassing on private property to do so, and snaps a roll or two. Months later, you wake up to your photos splashed across several magazines that you do not normally read, with misleading text.
Welcome to the world of Jennifer Aniston, who has filed suit against the photographer and a number of publications. Many will find little sympathy for a wealthy celebrity married to Brad Pitt whose work encompasses sexy roles. Some will wonder what the big deal is, with a reported 24,000 websites featuring revealing photos of the actress. Others will be entertained by the titillating details of the trial, set to begin on July 2.
We, characteristically, have a different view. Celebrities, like the rest of us, have a right to privacy. Celebrities, like the rest of us, have the right to expect that private property will not be violated. It doesnt matter if Jennifer Aniston poses stark naked every day for photographs agreed to by her and under her control (which she doesnt). It doesnt matter if the offending photographs are of her fully clothed, tending her garden.
What does matter is that once she enters her private property and engages in intentionally private pursuits, no one has the right to invade or exploit that privacy.
Jennifer Aniston isnt suing to help you or us. But if she wins, as the facts and the law indicate she should, her lawsuit will benefit us. The rule of law is built, decision by decision, on precedent. Every single precedent for privacy is another nail in the coffin of the scum who would violate it. Celebrities have the money and, increasingly, the will to pursue these lawsuits. Their victories benefit us all.June 12, 2002