Last Friday, French gossip magazine Closer published a series of photographs of Kate Middleton sunbathing topless. Yesterday morning, police in Paris raided the publication's offices of Closer magazine, searching the building and inspecting the staff's computers in an attempt to find the name of the photographer. And today, the photos were printed, for the fourth and fifth time, respectively, in Sweden and Denmark.
Who else has published the photos? What's going to happen to Closer now that police are raiding its offices? What are Kate and William's legal battles about? What is Closer? Why have you never heard of it till now? And what exactly was Prince William's hand doing to Kate's butt in that one picture? Read on:
What is Closer?
Closer is a weekly French tabloid magazine, owned by a subsidiary of the Italian company Mondadori. It has a circulation of around 389,000, making it France's 33rd-largest magazine.
Does it have anything to do with the British magazine Closer?
Nope. And, indeed, the British Closer would like to make that very clear: for the last week, the front page of their website has carried a statement expressing their "OUTRAGE OVER PUBLICATION OF TOPLESS PICTURES OF KATE, THE DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE."
They used to be connected, however. The French Closer was launched in 2005 as a French-language counterpart to the English magazine by Emap Publishing, a British company that owned both. But Emap sold its French holdings in 2006 to the Italian media group Mondadori, which still owns Closer as well as Chi, the Italian celebrity magazine that published the the photos (as part of a 24-page spread) on Monday. Interestingly, Mondadori is one arm of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's media empire, and is run by his daughter Marina.
So Silvio Berlusconi's daughter owns the magazines that published the Middleton pics?
Not only that, she herself was the subject of a topless paparazzi photo spread in Chi in 2010 — needless to say, a fairly tasteful and flattering one of her sunbathing in Bermuda. But, yeah. Europe, man.
What other print publications have run the photos?
Besides Closer and Chi? The Irish Daily Star published them on Saturday, the Swedish magazine Se och Hor today, and its Danish equivalent Se og Hor tomorrow.
Why haven't any British news outlets run them?
For a bunch of reasons — for one thing, the fact that they were clearly taken without consent would give Kate grounds to sue over invasion of privacy; for another, most British editors voluntarily adhere to a "Code of Practice" that forbids publishing photographs taken in private place; finally, there's a sense public backlash, and loss of access to the royals, would outweigh the benefits.
In fact, the English co-owner of the Irish Daily Star was so angry over the photos' publication that he threatened to shut down the paper, and editor Mike O'Kane was suspended. (I mean really, what's the point of a free Ireland if you can't publish topless shots of your former oppressors?)
There's a chance they will eventually be published, though. The Sun ran TMZ's nude-Prince-Harry-playing-billiards-in-Vegas photos, but waited until several days after they'd first been seen online, and used the coverline "Pics of naked Harry you've already seen on the internet," probably because it'd help them dodge a lawsuit.
But Kate and William are suing the French mag, right?
Yeah — and they'll almost certainly win. The couple has filed a criminal lawsuit against the magazine; in France, which has the strongest privacy laws in Europe, the "taking, recording or transmitting the picture of a person who is within a private place, without the consent of the person concerned" is a criminal act that can incur fines of up to €225,000. (Moreover, as "respect for [one's] private life" is a civil right in France, Kate can also sue on civil grounds.)
Their lawyer, Aurélien Hamelle, has already secured an injunction order preventing the magazine from publishing the photo and demanding that the magazine hand over all copies of the photograph. And, of course, today the police raided the offices.
So why did the magazine publish the photos if it knew it was doing something illegal?
French courts are generally hesitant to assign maximum fines, and it would be shocking if Closer's editor Laurence Pieau was convicted and thrown in jail for a year, as is technically possible under the criminal code. The magazine has likely calculated (just as all publications do!) that the magazine sales, and increased visibility and notoriety, outweigh whatever legal costs they'll incur, which are unlikely to be significant on a corporate level.
And, just as it has strong privacy protections, France also has strong shield laws, so the magazine won't be forced to give up the photographer's name.
No one knows who the photographer is?
Presumably Pieau does. But no, the name hasn't been made public. A photographer named Valerie Suau says she was at the same spot as the anonymous boob-shooter, but that the only photos she took showed Kate with her top on.
Where was that spot, exactly?
The Daily Mail has a picture of what they say is the place from which the pictures are taken. If they're right — always dicey with the Mail — it's on the side of a road about a kilometer away.
And where were Kate and William, again?
The Chateau d'Autet in Provence, an hour's drive outside of Marseille, owned by David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, a nephew of Queen Elizabeth.
Okay, and what is he doing in that one photo?
Well, I'm no expert, but it looks like he's squeezing her butt.