Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Whose law?

The Prince of Orange is in a snit. He and his wife, the Argentine-born Maxima, and their three blond daughters, boarded a plane last week for Argentina, where they planned to ski and visit with Maxima's family. They chose to stay at a a posh, upscale, but very public ski resort, where several free lance photographers, and one photographer from the Associated Press, snapped photos of the schussing Oranges on the slopes. The AP is the largest news gathering organization in the world, and is well-respected in the international news community. Although the headquarters are in New York City, the AP is not an "American" news organization. The AP is a not-for-profit news cooperative. Yes, actual cooperative is American, but the AP has bureaus and offices around the world, and uses a great many local hires. The AP has a bureau in Amsterdam, for example.
American law does not apply to this case. Why? The photographs were not taken in the United States. If Dutch newspapers had published photos of the prince and his family during a ski holiday here in the USA, Prince Willem-Alexander could huff and puff and stamp his feet, and cry foul, but he would not be able to sue. Here in the US, courts have ruled that one surrenders a part of one's privacy the moment one opens the front door. Even Jackie Onassis could not fully prevent the original paparazzo Ron Gallela from taking photos of her and family. The courts ruled he could take photos but he had to be at least 250 feet away.
The photographers in Argentina were more than 250 away, but the distance is not relevant because the incident did not take place in the Netherlands. The Prince of Orange cannot get his way every day of the week. (The ruling also only applied to Onassis' case.)
He stepped out of the bounds of Media Code Land. His petulant and childish behavior are not becoming of a man who will one day be the head of state of the Netherlands. His actions also insult all those AP staffers who have been imprisoned for their work, have died on the job, or were taken hostage. On March 16, 1985, AP's Chief Middle East Correspondent Terry Anderson was taken hostage in Lebanon. He was not released until December 4, 1991.
AP journalists and photographers have been killed in the line of duty in war and in peace. They have also won Pulitzer Prizes for their stories and for their photographs. AP photographers are photojournalists, not paparazzi.
The Prince of Orange should pick and choose his battles. He might have a case if he or his family were followed and harassed by photographers. But he was not being harassed.
Heirs to the thrones are largely dependent on public assistance (taxes) to maintain their homes and lifestyles. Yes, there is an element of a private fortune, but Willem-Alexander was born to serve the Netherlands, and not to serve himself. If he and his family had chosen to go skiing in Europe (difficult this time of year), his claims would be validated under the stifling media code. But he was in Argentina, out of his cocoon.
If he doesn't want to act like a grown up, he might be advised to do a Staycation next time ... after all, in the current economic situation, it really is not a good thing to be seen jetting around and schussing down the Argentine slopes.
Outside the Netherlands, the Prince of Orange is not an important person. He comes across as a spoiled, petulant little boy.

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