Justifying Gain-Based Remedies for Invasions of Privacy
45 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2009 Last revised: 22 Oct 2021
Date Written: Summer 2009
In Campbell v MGN Ltd  UKHL 22,  2 AC 457 the House of Lords approved of protecting privacy interests through incrementally developing the existing action for breach of confidence. Lord Hoffmann suggested that this modified cause of action, instead of being based upon the duty of good faith, focuses upon the protection of human autonomy and dignity. This article explores how this change in underlying values affects the availability of gain-based remedies, where breach of confidence is relied upon against the wrongful publication of private information. An account of profits is generally available where a defendant profited from disclosing confidential information in breach of a pre-existing relationship of confidence. It can also be awarded for certain breaches of contractual non-disclosure agreements and to protect proprietary interests. This article argues that these existing rationales for an account of profits can, where they apply in a particular case, also support gain-based relief in a privacy context. The article then considers that the particular nature and vulnerability of privacy make it necessary to allow gain-based relief in circumstances beyond these established categories. In order to provide effective deterrence and protection against commercially motivated infringements, in particular by the media, gain-based remedies should also be available where the privacy invasion is deliberate and a particularly outrageous infringement of the claimant's rights.
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