How much protection should English law give to ‘interests in personality’? Should one person, for example, have a remedy when another makes untrue, or even true, statements about him which affect his sense of dignity or honour? Should one person be able to bring an action where another appropriates his name or picture for commercial use without his permission? Should a person be able to prevent another planting listening devices in his house or taking photographs of him by surreptitious means? These are vexed questions that have troubled lawyers, both practising and academic, for at least a hundred years. In this chapter we look principally at the law of defamation and the way in which it protects a particular interest in personality, namely a person’s reputation. As we shall see, the law of defamation is primarily concerned with providing a remedy to a person who has been the victim of an untrue statement that lowers his reputation in the estimation of others. The law of defamation, however, leaves other interests in personality unprotected. It provides no protection in respect of private information, for example, where true but unflattering or even extremely damaging statements are made by one person about another. Nor does it protect the so-called ‘seclusion interest’ against violation. It also provides no protection of the interest in commercial exploitation of one’s personality (e.g. the use of another’s name or image for financial gain).
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