Law stated as at: 14 February 2008
Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni, who were recently married, won the action they had brought against the low cost airline Ryanair for having used their photograph in an advertisement for cheap flights. In this ad, a bubble showed the former top-model thinking that: "With Ryanair, my whole family can attend my wedding.". In two decisions dated 5th February 2008, the Court ruled that the ad which was published without their consent, infringed the image right of both of the couple.
Ruling of the court
Regarding Nicolas Sarkozy, the Court ruled that he owns "in respect of his image, regardless of his status and reputation, an absolute and exclusive right." As such, Nicolas Sarkozy was awarded his requested 1 € in symbolic damages. Regarding Carla Bruni, arguing that she usually sells her image for use in an ad in the sole French territory for 500,000 €, Carla Bruni claimed for half a million euro. The court found that she suffered economic damage estimated at 60,000 euros. The court also ruled that such an assessment should take into account the extent of the advertising campaign. The court summarised this as "one publication in a French newspaper on January 28 but also the huge buzz sought by RyanAir ". Indeed, the dissemination of the ad was a lot more widespread, especially via the Internet.
Why this matters:
This is the first time a Court has assessed damages taking into account not only the media exposure planned for the ad but also the "buzz" effect which is not under the control of the advertiser. As the buzz was foreseeable, the Court considered that it was intended by RyanAir and thus that this advertiser was liable for the injury incurred by the buzz created by its ad. Carla Bruni donated her damages award to a charity organization.