Royals File Suit Over Topless Kate Middleton Photos

Publications in Ireland, France and Italy have printed pictures showing Princess Kate sunbathing topless while on holiday with her husband, Prince Williams. Lawyers for the couple went to court Monday to seek an injunction against the Italian publishing house owned by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that has published a broad spread of the photos.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish. Britain's royal family took its case to court today. Its lawyers are seeking civil and criminal prosecutions over a French magazine's decision to publish topless photos of Prince William's wife, Kate. But, Vicki Barker reports, that's unlikely to remove those images from the public eye.

VICKI BARKER, BYLINE: The complaints were lodged today with a court near Paris, the city where Prince William's mother, Diana, died fleeing paparazzi photographers 15 years ago. Lawyers for the royals demanded that the French magazine Closer face a daily fine until it hands over the digital originals of the images and pulls them from its website. Experts say Closer almost certainly violated France's strict privacy laws but they say the fines are never big enough to deter the offenders. Some lawyers like Laurent Paris are calling for record damages to teach delinquent editors a lesson once and for all.

LAURENT PARIS: You must know that any act has consequences. And if the consequences are heavier, then you might think twice before doing things that has been done, particularly in the case of the duke and duchess of Cambridge.

BARKER: But even as the duke and duchess' lawyers were preparing their case against Closer, its Italian sister magazine, Chi, was rushing out a special edition showing even more of the photos. Both are owned by Silvio Berlusconi. As prime minister, Berlusconi frequently invoked Italy's privacy laws to keep his colorful personal life out of the papers. British royals, he seems to believe, don't require the same protection. And Italian criminal lawyer Maurizio Bellacosa says it's not yet clear if Italian laws were broken.

MAURIZIO BELLACOSA: It is difficult to say because we really are on the borderline between the right to inform and publish, and on the other side the protection of the privacy.

BARKER: No British newspapers have published the images. And the British co-owner of an Irish paper that did is threatening to close it down. But former British tabloid editor Neil Wallis argues that all the legal victories in the world won't keep the images off random websites. And he says Prince William's muscular legal response may backfire.

NEIL WALLIS: All this is doing is adding notoriety. It's actually adding financial value to these pictures.

BARKER: If tomorrow's ruling in the French civil case goes against the royals, the editor of Closer has implied she has even more intimate photos of the couple. For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London.

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