What is freedom of expression?

Everyone has the right to communicate his or her opinions and ideas and share information in whatever form. In human rights this is called freedom of expression. It prohibits the state and other people in society from censorship and it can be restricted for only very serious reasons.
Case summary

Ashby Donald and Others v. France

European Court of Human Rights
10 January 2013

The applicants, three fashion photographers, were invited by various fashion houses to fashion shows. Photographs they took at the fashion shows were sent to a company that published them online. The Fashion Federation and several fashion houses lodged a complaint before national courts, as they had not consented to the publication of the photographs. The applicants were found guilty of copyright infringement and ordered to pay damages to the Fashion Federation and fashion houses. 

The applicants alleged that the orders imposed due to the posting of photographs violated their right to freedom of expression. 

Court’s ruling
The Court ruled that there had not been a violation of applicants’ freedom of expression. 

The Court found that:

  • The interference was prescribed by law and had a legitimate aim, namely, protection of the intellectual property rights of the authors working in fashion houses.
  • The interference was necessary in a democratic society:
  1. Even if persons like to be informed about fashion, it could not be said that the fashion photographs were part of public debate of a topic of general interest;
  2. The applicants knowingly had disseminated the photographs without the consent of the intellectual property rights holders;
  3. The amount of damages was decided in fair proceedings and the national courts had given adequate reasons for it. 

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