Woman Sues TV Station For Featuring Her In A Film About Obesity

from the fat-chance dept

A UK woman is apparently suing a Croatian TV station for filming her walking in public and including the clip in a documentary about obesity. The woman never knew she was being filmed, and claims that this is “an attack on human dignity.” The specific legal issues are pretty complex (it’s in the UK, so it discusses the twists and turns of UK law on the issue), but it sounds like the right to privacy in such a case is hardly clear cut. Still, it does make you wonder what was really done wrong here. She was out in public, where anyone could see her — and assuming the video accurately portrayed her and didn’t change or distort the image, is it really an attack on her dignity? If so, would someone just looking at her in the street and thinking she’s obese be an attack on her dignity? Where does that line fall?

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Comments on “Woman Sues TV Station For Featuring Her In A Film About Obesity”

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The Arbiter says:

Video clips such as this one are hardly an invasion of privacy. Either the person is filmed from behind, from a distance with the camera out of focus, or up close with faces blurred. All methods serve to hide the faces and identities of the persons filmed. They are never shown speaking, there is no identification. The only way this woman would have known she was filmed is if she saw the documentary herself and recognized her clothing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Video clips such as this one are hardly an invasion of privacy. Either the person is filmed from behind, from a distance with the camera out of focus, or up close with faces blurred.

The linked article clearly states that the woman was identifiable in the video. What is your source to the contrary?

Xerloq says:

It's not an invasion of privacy - at least in the US

I seem to recall a court case where a woman sued a newspaper for publishing a picture of her running naked from a burning building. The court held that since she was in public and anyone could have seen, the newspaper publishing the photo was not an invasion of privacy. I’ll have to go look up the case law…

It’s not illegal to film people in public. The blurred faces and back shots are more of a courtesy than a requirement.

PaulT (profile) says:

This is also my opinion about CCTV cameras, Google Street View and similar things that seem to get treated as a source of privacy invasion. If you’re out in a public place, you have – by definition – surrendered your right to privacy. Anything you do in a public place is in the public view.

If you’re uncomfortable with the way other people view you (in this case, yeah if you’re featured in an obesity documentary, you’re fat. Get over it.), don’t get annoyed when someone expresses that opinion, especially if you’re a visitor to a foreign country while doing so.

Having said that, the article discusses this woman being filmed while out in Zabreg and then featured on Croatian TV, so wouldn’t it be Croatian law rather than UK law that applies here? The article discusses how UK law might view the case, but I don’t think it’s totally relevant here…

barrenwaste says:

Posters 1 and 3

Well, I’m sure those things help to salve the ego. But they really have no bearing on dignity. A person can be both dignified and known to be obese. Dignity isn’t something that can be taken from you, which is what makes this case so laughably stupid. Her ego was hurt, and therefore she sacrificed her dignity by making a public idiot of herself? If anybody broke that law, it was her, and she is her own victim. I wonder how that would be presented in court.

Fuchsia says:

Re: Posters 1 and 3

Well, no, actually. Dignity can be taken from you and in fact the right to have human dignity protected and respected (as stated, eg, in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU) is perhaps the most basic of all rights and the one from which all others stem (“the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”, Universal Declaration of Human Rights). I agree that this particular ladies dignity hasn’t been particularly damaged, if only because frivolous cases such as this take away from the seriousness of the right in general. But yes, human dignity can be violated and is around the world on a daily basis and with creative flair…

Lyrael says:

Re: It would be illegal here...

The same goes for UK law, and as she is a UK citizen I can see where she might have gotten the idea that this lawsuit might work.

But seriously, if you’re on foreign land you have to expect to live by their laws. I don’t know how the law of *that* land applies to this but going by the uproar here I’m gonna guess that it’s not in her favour.

BTR1701 (profile) says:

Re: Charter of Fundamental Rights, Chapter 1, Article 1

> First article of the Charter of Fundamental Rights;

> “Human dignity is inviolable.

Seems to me that if the charter defines dignity as inviolable, then it would be awful difficult to prove in court that one’s dignity was violated. How does one go about violating something that is, by definition, inviolable?

David says:

The legality is tenuous at best, but lets not pretend that it wasn’t insulting. If they did a show on America’s Geekiest Web Reporters and your picture showed up Mike, don’t pretend like you wouldn’t be insulted. Also, unless they interviewed her, we have no way of knowing why she is fat. Certainly if everyone simply lumps her into the lazy and apathetic group as is usually the case, then that could be ruled as slander at worst or simply bigoted at best. Labeling her as fat in front of tens of thousands of people with no explanation can certainly be construed as an attack. But hey she’s fat, so who cares right? She has no rights to human dignity.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re:

No, we don’t know how she was portrayed in the film but it’s a documentary and thus should not be labeling anyone lazy or apathetic. It probably was at the beginning with a dozen other large people with a voice saying something like “Just walking down the street we can see many larger people”. Most likely not even getting into causes until later in the movie with the colored animations.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re:

This is a pretty thin argument. Once one reads past your baseless accusations of bigotry, the argument becomes “someone filmed her AS SHE IS, and used it in a documentary about obesity.” Had they altered the film to make her appear larger or mock her, that would be an attack. If they simply show her as she is, isn’t it then left up to the viewer to determine whether she fits the profile of an obese individual? Also, “obese” is a clinical term; there are specific weights/body fat percentages that define “obese.” So, she either is or isn’t. Dignity is not involved. It is a simple fact. Your “geekiest reporters” analogy does not hold up, as “geek” is an opinion and a negatively loaded word. “Obese” is simply a clinical fact.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

hey hegemon13,
would you please post a picture of yourself so that i can use it in a report i want to do on pedophiles? i’m not going to say that you’re a pedo, i’m just want to put your picture with the report and then “let the viewer determine” if you fit the profile. i promise not to alter the picture to make you appear different. ok?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The legality is tenuous at best, but lets not pretend that it wasn’t insulting. If they did a show on America’s Geekiest Web Reporters and your picture showed up Mike, don’t pretend like you wouldn’t be insulted.

I’d actually find it pretty amusing, but ok… If you hadn’t noticed by now, there are plenty of people who like to insult me all the time. Why should it bother me what other people think?

People can get offended at any little thing. Should that be illegal?

nasch says:

Re: re

How many people should it be OK to broadcast your image to? Is it OK if there’s no profit? What if the show does badly and loses money, then is it OK? Or if it’s on public TV? Is it OK if it’s uploaded to YouTube, but nobody watches it? What if it’s for profit, but you’re just in the background? What if it’s a tight zoomed in shot but the person just keeps the video and doesn’t broadcast it, is that OK? Or what if he just shows it to his family?

Why does it make sense to have a law to protect your privacy when you’re not in private?

Anonymous Coward says:

If her face is not shown, how can she prove that it was her in the film?

Also, being obese is not objective. If you are at over a certain weight for your age, you are obese. It is a fact.

It’s like someone filming me on the street, in a movie about people with dark hair, and taking offense to it. If you are embarrassed about being obese, then WORK OUT FATTIE!

barrenwaste says:

poster 11 and 12

It seems you both misunderstand the word dignity. Dignity is not something that can be given or taken by exposure or insult. Certainly, the woman’s feelings can be hurt, and I’m sure it was embarassing. However, that doesn’t lessen whatever dignity she has. Dignity, in any situation other than a bestowed title, is self-driven.

Also, to compare calling a person obese to calling a person a geek is erroneous. Geek is a sociatal label that has little to do with physical form. Geeks can be obese or skinny, tall or short. It is not a physical observation. It is a label that was originally designed to cause emotional anguish. Not so with obesity. The word was coined to lessen the impact, so as not to cause emotional anguish. Not only that, but it is a statement based solely on the physical and what can physically be proven. Finally, you must take into account the way the womans picture was used. It was not used as comedy or insult, but rather as educational. All these things considered, that woman is a fat ass.

Sean (user link) says:

Re: poster 11 and 12

“Dignity, in any situation other than a bestowed title, is self-driven.”

You’re flat-out wrong, dignity “must be respected and protected”. If someone else offends your dignity, they have breached your human rights.

If your argument is sound, then “debasing and degrading treatment” is perfectly legal, and Abu Ghraib was only important if the detainees allowed themselves to be degraded?

You can say it’s a big step from broadcasting footage of an obese woman to arrive at Abu Ghraib, but then we’re talking about scale, not principle.

barrenwaste says:

Re: Re: poster 11 and 12

Sean, you definately sound committed to your point of view. However, I would ask that you confirm the meaning of the word dignity before arguing it as a concept. Any english dictionary will have it, and prove what I have been saying.

That said, simply degrading someone is not illegal. Rude, but not illegal. If I call a whore a whore, it’s degrading and rude, but it isn’t illegal. If I state that an obese person is obese, they may be embarassed, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are obese. It is not an assault on thier dignity, it is merely the truth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Public Ridicule

It pains me to give you the dignity of a response, but NO. That would be harassment. It has absolutely nothing to do with filming a person who has chosen to be in public.

Just how would a television broadcast to potentially millions of people be less embarrassing or harassing? In both cases the person “has chosen to be in public”, so that distinction is meaningless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Public Ridicule

“So, being in public makes it alright? Would it have been alright to follow her around in public with a bullhorn shouting out fat jokes? I mean, she was out in public, right?”

Of course. There’s no law against telling jokes in public and if she didn’t like it she shouldn’t have her fat ass out in public to begin with.

barrenwaste says:


Well reasoned, but inherintly flawed. It boils down to the definition of dignity. In this, as in many other things, most people do not have a firm grasp of the concept. Dignity has two aspects. That which is created by the person, and that which is granted to the person. The inherent dignity, or human dignity, is that which is created by the person. This dignity cannot be assaulted or taken unless by consent of the person. The second form of dignity is that found in titles, such as Chairman and President. This form of dignity can be taken, but several points must be made. First, as it was a major factor in causing the rebellions that lead to democratic forms of government, it is doubtfull that it is the type mentioned. Second, not everybody recieves this form of dignity, and that is right and just. It is an honor granted by certain select groups for meritorous actions.

So, by definition, dignity as mentioned in your charter literally cannot be assaulted or taken. It certainly cannot be taken by stating facts or by media presentations that state facts. In this case, the woman’s actions may lessen her dignity, but nothing the documentary said or did could have. This isn’t semantics, the definitions of words as pertain to legal matters is a very serious matter, as those laws can determine the fate of the people.

Oh Please Fatty (profile) says:

So, being in public makes it alright? Would it have been alright to follow her around in public with a bullhorn shouting out fat jokes? I mean, she was out in public, right?

Was there a tuba player following her around?

Also, unless they interviewed her, we have no way of knowing why she is fat.

Um no exercise and poor diet. Don’t believe the thyroid crap. Only 1-2% of folks have that and it can be controlled by drugs and either the weight disappears or they are able to gain weight.

Thomasio says:

There's gotta be more to this case ...

This is interesting for many reasons. One, for all the above valid commentary, but also that the individual’s name is Gordana Knezic – which is absolutely a Croatian surname, thus there are roots there, or she is an emigre, or, has an axe of some sort to grind. Thus for all – or many – of those reasons, there’s opportunism clearly at work.

Jackiemearound says:

fat happens

When an active fit person loses mobility due to joint loss or old age, that active fit person gets fat very quickly. Believe me it sucks. You feel like you are blown up like a balloon. Your body is literally in your way. It is horribly embarrassing. You want to die. But you don’t go around slapping lawsuits on photographers. You hide. You find a way of doing aerobic exercise that gets around the mobility problem (recumbent bike, swimming, etc.) you try not to get even fatter and worse off. You eat and drink less (and suffer because now you are fat and SOBER.) Don’t give the poor gal too much grief–it could be you in twenty years…

Jesse says:

If it is not identifiable, (not her face), then it should not be a problem. But if she is identifiable, and then they go on to correlate her with obesity, that is a problem. It isn’t really any different than publishing her name and then talking about how fat she is. It’s not invasion of privacy so much as defamation.

Also, I think it is a little hypocritical for techdirt to criticize the UK for its invasions of privacy with regard to CCTV cameras everywhere, but then to say that in this case its okay. It seems like it should be one way or the other.

John Smith says:

I, for one, would be ashamed if I could recognize MY fat ass from amongst a group of other fat asses.
Sueing only corroborates her lazy character. Free money? yes please.
I personally am not fat at all.
@ coward
Go ahead. If pedo is an important word for you and you are behind a bookreport be my fucking guest. I’ll be naming you as the ringleader & will gladly admit to any of your own personal depravities. Talk sure is cheap these days-asshole

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Gee hegemon13/John Smith, just how many sock puppets do have these days anyway?

Go ahead. If pedo is an important word for you and you are behind a bookreport be my fucking guest.

OK, where’s the photo?

I’ll be naming you as the ringleader & will gladly admit to any of your own personal depravities.

You can admit to whatever you want to, but if you want to actually accuse me of something you better have something to back it up.

Talk sure is cheap these days-asshole

I guess it must be since you go shooting off your mouth but still don’t post the photo. All you do is open that filthy mouth of yours. Typical hypocrite.

Jesse says:

The responses in the post really only underscore the problem here. Obese != lazy. The film makers labeled her as obese, and the truth is that comes with other connotations beyond physical weight. If we went, Mike, and said that someone was lazy and pathetic, ugly and a slob, that person would have grounds for a defamation suit. Yes, she was in public, and yes people are likely to make those stereotypes anyways, but that doesn’t mean she should have to be broadcast on TV with a commentator implying she is a fatass.

barrenwaste says:


First, the film makers did not label her. The medical comunity and society as a whole labeled her. Second, the label used is simply a word used to describe her physical condition. It is not a derogetory word, and any negative conotations that go with it are there due to the habits of most with that condition.

This woman was walking in a public place, where any stranger could see her. She was filmed, and the only difference is now complete strangers in other countries can see her. She was not derided, she was not castigated. Doccumentary was merely given on an easily reconisable and provable physical trait.

There was no insult given, even, and definately no attack on her dignity. Unless you are saying that her physical condition is in of itself an assault on her dignity. Then, of course, commenting on it would only add insult to injury. And if that is the case, then, as I pointed out before, she should be suing herself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 49

It is not a derogetory [sic] word, and any negative conotations [sic] that go with it are there due to the habits of most with that condition.

There was no insult given, even, and definately no attack on her dignity.

What a crock. If you really believe that then I suggest you try this: Start walking up to over-weight strangers and telling them just how fat they are. I know a big biker that you can start with. I’ll be funny watching you get your face punched.

Barrenwaste says:

Re: No Pity

I am middleaged and have to work out a bit to keep the paunch off. I still have little pity for most people who are over weight. I am asthmatic with pins in my joints and I can still pull round offs and backflips without to much effort. If a man in my condition can do this much, then it should not be difficult for the majority of the population to get rid of a few more pounds. No, the majority simply refuse to accept that thier condition is the result of poor eating and living habits. If this reflects negatively on thier character, they are free to change it.

eskayp says:

Unwanted publicity

So, you are unknowingly and unflatteringly taped in public.
Next step: sue the bastards!
Whoa! What’s this?
News of the lawsuit went viral all over the internet!
Next step: Google the definition of “Streisand Effect”.
Last step: Punch self in face, shoot self in foot.

Offtopic — related:
Didn’t see mommy kissing Santa Claus,
but I saw Barbra kissing Bush.
Someone ought to be sued.

Maderik (profile) says:


I think the only real question is the use of her face. If they blocked her face and only used her body, that should be ok, but if not… Dunno about other country’s laws though.

Of course the knee jerk reaction would be to blame her for being obese to begin with, and assuming it’s her fault. A lot of things contribute to obesity, not just overindulgence or gluttony. As a recovering obese person myself, I know it’s not nearly as simple a problem as folks consider, especially in the US where we’re constantly bombarded with marketing that tells us 1. We’re ugly, fat, and inadequate. 2. We should consume, consume, consume. 3. Since we’re ugly and fat and inadequate, we should spend lots of money to get better or we’re just plain bad people. Add various chemical imbalances and psychological histories to this, and it’s not really as clear-cut as some of us would think, especially those blessed with birdlike metabolisms, personal trainers, home gyms, or access to bariatric surgery.

Bobb says:

C'mon she's right to be upset

Imagine I take a video of you or somebody you feel strongly about, in a public place, and then produce a documentary hitting on your most sensitive feelings.

E.g. “a documentary about ugly people”. Or “fat wives”. Or “homely teenage girls” featuring your daughter or sister. Of course, names withheld, the victim.. erg, subject is filmed in a public place.

If you have a right it doesn’t mean it’s OK to use it; there’s plenty of situations that are perfectly legal yet highly unethical.

BTW I am not commenting on the legality – I don’t know the law well enough.

Local says:


If it was filmed in Croatia, she doesn’t have a leg to stand on… Croatia isn’t a part of the EU and isn’t subject to its laws and sanctions (yet)..
It’s almost a media pastime to film people out in public in Zagreb, people gravitate towards certain areas in the hopes of being caught on camera… to ‘be seen’ ..
I’d be very surprised if HTV even bothered responding to her, as the UK has no jurisdiction whatsoever..

Xiera says:

You might not like it, but...

The majority of posts are right: it is NOT defamation or slander or anything of the sort to report a measureable fact. For example, I spelled the word ‘measurable’ wrong in the previous sentence. To point that out would NOT be defamation, even if I am particularly sensitive about my spelling (actually, when I first typed it, I didn’t mean to spell it wrong, go Firefox spellchecker).

If she doesn’t like being identified as overweight (and, hey, guess what? everyone else who sees her identifies her as overweight as well), she should lose weight. As a parallel, I was underweight in high school. My solution: rather than whining about it, I went to the gym and put myself on a high-protein, high-carb diet.

Yes, she’s allowed to be self-conscious, but she’s not entitled to money for it.

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