Editor’s Note: This blog is not bound by the injunction in England and Wales.
Pop Goes The News — The British Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that people in England and Wales should not be able to read about the sexual exploits of Elton John’s Canadian husband David Furnish.
In a four-to-one decision, the court said there was no public interest in naming John and Furnish — the latter identified only as PJS.
“Publication of the story would infringe privacy rights of PJS, his partner and their children,” read Lord Mance.
“There is no public interest (however much it may be of interest to some members of the public) in publishing kiss-and-tell stories or criticisms of private sexual conduct, simply because the persons involved are well-known; and so there is no right to invade privacy by publishing them.”
The ruling is a blow to freedom of the press and free speech in England and Wales — and out of touch with the realities of the Internet and social media.
“It is true the story has been accessible on the internet and social media but if the injunction were to be lifted, there would be intensive coverage of the story by the Sun on Sunday (and there is little doubt, by other newspapers),” Mance read, “as well as unrestricted internet and social media coverage, all of which could constitute additional and potentially more enduring invasions of the privacy of PJS, his partner and their children.”
Furnish sought a publication ban in January as the Sun on Sunday was about to publish details of Furnish’s sexual encounters with Daniel Laurence, including a threesome that involved Laurence’s partner Pieter Van den Bergh.
The request was denied by the court but Furnish appealed and won an injunction. In April, the National Enquirer and its sister publication Star published articles naming all the men involved.
In early May, the U.S. edition of OK! (owned by the parent company of Enquirer and Star) also published an article about the sex scandal.
Even though the injunction is not valid outside England and Wales, lawyers for John and Furnish tried to remove stories from the Web by filing Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaints.
The DMCA, though, is intended to protect against infringement of copyright.
The Toronto Star reported that it received a letter from a lawyer representing the famous couple demanding that the article be removed from its website or blocked from readers in England and Wales.
“The Star’s policy on ‘unpublishing’ decrees that we do not take down published articles except in rare circumstances, which no one here believes are applicable in this matter,” wrote public editor Kathy English. “Our website does not have any ‘geoblocking’ function.”
English opined: “That any celebrity with deep pockets would turn to the courts these days to try to keep information from the public seems ludicrous.”
Ironically, the attempts by John and Furnish to infringe on press freedoms — which has reportedly cost them an estimated $2 million CAD — turned salacious gossip that likely would have been ignored by mainstream media into a bigger story.
British politician Philip Davies called the injunction “an absolute farce” and “a mockery” — and said judges need to “get real with the modern world.”
He added: “I don’t think celebrities who use the media to secure positive media coverage when it suits them should be able to use the law of the land to prevent coverage they do not like.”
Elton, 69, and Toronto-born Furnish, 53, have been together for 23 years and were married in December 2014. The couple has two sons, Zachary, 5, and Elijah, 3, from a surrogate.