The $115 million that a jury awarded Hulk Hogan from Gawker Media on Friday could spell the end of celebrity sex tapes being leaked, according to one legal expert.
“I think this case establishes a very limited proposition: It is an invasion of privacy to make publicly available a tape of a person having sex without that person’s consent,” UC Irvine law school Dean Erwin Chmerinsky told the New York Times. “I don’t think it goes any further than that and I do not see a First Amendment basis for claiming that there is a right to do this.”
The jury ruled that Hogan suffered severe emotional distress over the publication of segments of a tape that featured him having sex with a friend’s wife, and that his privacy was invaded by the publication of the footage. The $115 million award was even greater than the $100 million that Hogan had sought.
“The case appears to be whether a public figure has a limited right of privacy,” famed lawyer Bert Fields told TheWrap. “I have always contended that even the most famous public figure has some right of privacy. Very limited, but some.”
“Many people believe that once you’re a public figure, you have absolutely no right of privacy at all and anything is fair game if it isn’t defamatory,” Fields said.
In a recent L.A. Times editorial, Chemerinsky said that First Amendment absolutists will worry about the final outcome, but he envisioned a clear rule in the future: “No videos of people having sex should be made public unless all of the participants consent.”