Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The Sarkozy voodoo doll survives

Court of Appeal of Paris (14th Chamber, section B), 28 November 2008,

The French President Nicolas Sarkozy sued the publisher Tear Prod for publishing a book called “Nicolas S. the voodoo handbook”, sold in a box containing a figurine of the President and three needles. The following text was also in the box: “You hate Nicolas S. Because he is too right-wing? (…)”. Sarkozy asked for the products to be withdrawn from sale and for nominal damages (1 euro), in particular on the grounds of Articles 9 (“Everyone has the right to respect for his private life”) and 16 (“Legislation ensures the primacy of the person, prohibits any infringement of the latter's dignity and safeguards the respect of the human being from the outset of life”) of the Civil Code.

In the judgement dated 28 November 2008, the Court of Appeal of Paris decided that the text on the box exceeds the limits authorised by caricature.

The Court, however, refused to ban the product as such a measure would not have been proportional to the damages suffered by the plaintiff, and would have undermined freedom of expression. The Court did grant 1 symbolic euro to the President.

Nevertheless, the Court ordered the publisher to add a warning on the box with the following text: “It has been ruled that the incitation of the reader to prick the doll that is enclosed with this book, using the needles that are furnished in the box, is an action that suggests physical pain, even if it is symbolic, and so infringes on Mr S.’ dignity”.

The publicity that came from this trial turned the voodoo doll in question into a best-seller, says the publisher…