The long-running legal battle over photos from the 2000 wedding of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones went to Britain’s highest court Monday.
A panel of five judges in the House of Lords began a hearing to decide whether celebrity magazine OK! is entitled to compensation from rival Hello!, which published secretly snapped pictures of the couple’s lavish wedding at New York’s Plaza Hotel.
OK! — which had an exclusive contract with the Hollywood couple — sued Hello! after the rival publication ran its own pictures of the event.
A High Court judge ruled in favor of OK! in November 2003, ordering Hello! to pay costs and damages of more than $3.8 million.
Hello! appealed, arguing that it had run its own wedding pictures as a “spoiler” to its rival’s coverage — a common practice in journalism.
Last year, the Court of Appeal agreed, dismissing a claim by OK! that its rival’s spoiler had unlawfully interfered with its business. The judges overturned the costs and damages ruling and ordered OK! to pay back the money it had received.
OK! is appealing that ruling to the Law Lords, judges who sit in the House of Lords and make up the country’s highest court. The magazine’s lawyer, Richard Millett, said Monday that Douglas and Zeta-Jones had signed a deal with OK! in order to preserve their confidentiality.
“This included a reduction in the risk of intrusion at their wedding and partly to control the presentation of what was published for the enhancement of their own professional careers,” he said.
Douglas, 62, and Zeta-Jones, 37, who received $28,000 in damages from Hello! after the original trial, weren’t expected to be in court for the weeklong hearing.
During a dramatic six-week hearing at the High Court in 2003, Zeta-Jones said she had felt “violated” when Hello! published its “sleazy and unflattering” pictures.
She singled out an image that showed Douglas feeding her wedding cake, saying, “I don’t usually like my husband shoving a spoon down my throat to be photographed.”