A High Court victory for Tulisa Contostavlos over a sex tape posted on the internet by her ex-boyfriend will encourage more public figures to take auction over breaches of privacy on the internet, legal experts said.
The singer and X Factor judge won an apology from ex-boyfriend Justin Edwards over footage of the couple performing a sex act which he and six associates leaked on to the internet and tried to sell as a download.
Speaking outside the court, Contostavlos, 24, said Edwards, a rapper known as MC Ultra, had “messed with the wrong woman“.
The N-Dubz singer formed a relationship with Edwards when they were both in their teens. The video of the singer engaging in a sexual act with Edwards was shot on a phone backstage at a concert in 2010.
Contostavlos won a High Court order in March banning publication of the tape. Edwards, who initially denied being responsible for its appearance on the web, hoped to sell one million downloads at $6 each.
Jonathan Coad , Contostavlos’s solicitor, told Mr Justice Tugendhat that the invasion of her privacy “was of the most severe kind imaginable”.
“She has been particularly distressed by the wholly untrue allegation made by some that she was in some way complicit with the release of the footage. She was not.”
Mr Coad told The Independent: “The case will give public figures confidence that, if they have the means and resolution, they can get virally distributed material off the web. It can’t be expunged completely but the footage has been removed from 60 websites and is now very difficult to find.”
Celebrities who have been the victim of leaked sex videos include Paris Hilton. The socialite launched a lawsuit against her then-boyfriend Rick Salomon when the clip of the couple performing sex acts in a French hotel room appeared on the web in 2003. But she then exploited the affair by releasing the footage as a DVD, One Night In Paris.
Margaret Tofalides, Privacy law expert at Manches, said: “Tulisa's case shows the courts are willing to take a firm line on privacy invasion when there is a clear case of rights being infringed.
“Whilst some cynics may see the publicity as something some stars are happy to court, there is a limit and a line to be drawn. Problems can and do arise with similar situations involving not just films but diaries, notes, recordings and texts, all susceptible for viral distribution into the public domain by people looking to cash in.”
Contostavlos said: “It has been a very testing few months and this was not a case I ever wanted to go through.
“Justin Edwards's actions were to spite me, make money and ruin my career. He has succeeded in none of these things.
“I stand here today a stronger, wiser young woman who has taken this experience and learnt from it. I am disgusted by Justin and saddened by the people that believed I released the footage myself.
“Today the truth has prevailed. After months of lying to the public and lying in court, Justin has finally admitted to being guilty and I hope justice is served.” Thanking her fans for their support, she concluded: “Justin messed with the wrong woman.”
Edwards, who was not present in Court, accepted all that was said on behalf of Contostavlos and has agreed not to speak further in public about their relationship. The singer will not pursue him for damages since he has no money but is pursuing six associates involved in the attempted distribution of the film, for a “six figure sum” in costs and damages.
Tulisa will also seek an apology and correction from Loaded magazine, which ran an interview with Edwards in which he denied involvement in leaking the clip.