UK Sports Star Threatens American Newspaper For Posting Public Information About His New Home

from the how-do-you-say-streisand-in-british? dept

People don't always like it, but home ownership records are public information in the US, and they often get reported on. There are all sorts of things that people do to deal with this, including using shell companies to buy homes or, like most people, just sucking it up and recognizing that such information is public. But, sometimes that message is hard to get across, and then you have a lawyer come and do something stupid. As you may know (or as you absolutely know if you even remotely follow football -- the non-American kind), in the world of UK Premier League football, there was just quite an insane and unexpected victory by Leicester City (beating 5000 to 1 odds).

At about the very same time, reporters at the NY-based Observer noted that one of the team's players, Christian Fuchs, not only won the title, but also had purchased a nice new townhome in Manhattan. Again, this is a public record, and it is not uncommon for the news to report home purchases of celebrities. But, for some reason, Fuchs flipped out about this and had a lawyer threaten the Observer -- or, rather, directly threaten the reporter who wrote the story:
The letter, written by Michael Yates, an associate of big UK media law firm Lee & Thompson, was sent not to me or to Ms. Halberg’s editor but to Ms. Halberg herself, presumably to heighten its intimidation value. Hilariously, it cites the Fuchs’ rights under “Article 8 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.” And it even plays the “you’re harming the precious Fuchs children” card.

“The Information and Photographs constitute private information belonging to our clients, as well as belonging to their two young children, which you have published without their consent.” The letter helpfully advises the Observer, under a section headed “URGENT NEXT STEPS” (Mr. Yates suppressed the British penchant for understatement by deploying all caps, bold, and underlining): “immediately remove your article containing the Information and the Photographs and confirm that you will not publish the same again in the future.”

The letter continues, “My clients have not even told their own children about the purchase of this property, which is another indication of how private it is. In any event, English case law makes it expressly clear that children are afforded a higher degree of protection under the law of privacy than adults. Publishing details and photographs of exactly where our clients’ children reside is not only a breach of that privacy, but it is plainly a security risk causing our clients very grave concern.”
Article 8, in case you're wondering, is sort of a similar thing to the 4th Amendment in the US. It's designed to stop unwarranted searches of homes, though its rather odd and broad wording of protecting "private and family life" has led some -- apparently including Fuchs' lawyer Michael Yates -- to believe that it also applies to "stuff my family wants to keep private."

But, the idea it applies to public records about home purchases in the United States is ludicrous. And, thankfully, the Observer gets that:
We’re not removing shit.
They also sent back the following letter to Yates, noting that it was approved by their lawyer, who happens to be British:
Dear Mr. Yates:

It is no longer well known that British control of New York City didn’t end until the very last days of the Revolutionary War in 1783. Since then, however, we Americans no longer take orders from you, or from your entitled, swaggering clients. We congratulate Mr. Fuchs on his club’s amazing success this year. But we won’t be adding “intimidating a website into unpublishing protected speech” to his list of victories.

We shall also be publishing a follow-up story noting that you’ve threatened our reporter with your jerkoff language: “We strongly urge you not to underestimate our clients resolve in pursuing this matter.” According to our lawyer, no American court will order any form of damages to be awarded by this surreptitious attempt at colonialism by lawfare. I shall be in London in a couple weeks, in case you need to alert the authorities.

Meanwhile, you allude to the matter being so private that even the footballer’s children have not been told yet. While we congratulate the Fuchs children on being Observer readers, we cannot help but wonder if the real irritant here is that Mr. Fuchs’ employer and teammates found out about his purchase from reading the Observer.

Sincerely, Ken Kurson
He, of course, doesn't get into the details of why the threat is ridiculous, but the key point, as we've discussed in the past, is that here in the US we have the SPEECH Act, which is tremendously useful in stopping those outside the US from attempting to censor protected speech within the US. That law was designed exactly for situations like this, where someone outside the US is pointing to foreign laws to try to silence what is clearly protected speech by an American publication. Even if Fuchs could win some sort of judgment in the UK, or elsewhere in Europe, it would be totally unenforceable inside the US.

And, of course, the very act of threatening the reporter and trying to remove the content has, as per usual, done the exact opposite and drawn much more attention to it. You would think, by now, lawyers would recognize how this plays out. It's not like it's a new concept or anything.

Filed Under: christian fuchs, free speech, journalism, leicester city, privacy, public records, reporting, streisand effect
Companies: the observer


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  • icon
    Matt (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 10:55am

    Is it too late to nominate Ken Kurson for presidential?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 10:58am

    Enjoy your extra publicity

    So now rather than one article about the new home, they get that and an article covering the threat and attempt to have the original article removed.

    Ah sweet schadenfreude...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jameshogg (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 12:01pm

    Maybe if he got into massive debt about the house he could get the EU to just pretend everybody will forget about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sunhawk, 6 May 2016 @ 12:05pm

    You know, a *good* lawyer would either:

    A. Advise the client that the story is already out there and drawing further attention would be counter-productive, or

    B. If the client still insists, send a politely worded letter that makes it clear that it's a *request* to the newspaper to edit out specific details or (if one is feeling ambitious) to again *request* that the article be removed.

    A threat may work against a small-time (ie, one without a lawyer) blog or similar journalistic entity, but the first thing a newspaper with a lawyer on retainer is going to do is ask that lawyer "is this threat real" - and that lawyer is going to say 'no'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 12:15pm

      Re:

      Which is probably why they sent the threat to the reporter, rather than the paper, to up the intimidation factor and try to get the reporter to pull it themselves thanks to said intimidation.

      Unfortunately for them(and fortunately for everyone else) they seem to have miscalculated just a wee bit in assuming that the reporter wouldn't immediately take it to their bosses, and therefore the lawyers they keep on staff/call.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    BentFranklin (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 12:51pm

    "lawfare"

    Adding this to my lexicon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 12:57pm

    No a 'Good Lawyer would send loads of stupid futile incorrect threats and charge by the minute

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Fact Checker, 6 May 2016 @ 1:20pm

    Missing information

    In reporting this with a headline "UK Sports Star Threatens .." it is disingenuous NOT to mention that Christian Fuchs is not English/British/UKofGB&NI but is Austrian and was born in Neunkirchen, Austria.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      art guerrilla (profile), 7 May 2016 @ 4:41am

      Re: Missing information

      yeah, well he's in amerika now; so suck it up, christian, or fuch off...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous UK Resident #5424743871, 8 May 2016 @ 7:17am

      Re: Missing information

      Well since 'UK' isn't generally used as a nationality (my passport gives my nationality as British), I read it as someone who plies their trade in the UK. Which he does.

      In any case, both the UK and Austria are ECHR signatories (but not the USA... I'm surprised a highly-paid lawyer didn't think to look that up), so it's somewhat irrelevant, even though it's correct.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    madasahatter (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 3:56pm

    Public Records

    In the US public records are searchable by any member of the public. Many US jurisdictions try make at least the more common ones searchable online. Also, these records in cases must be published in the media such as in a local newspaper. It is quite likely the reporter was perusing the Manhattan weekly real estate transactions and noticed the sale.

    Tell moron that he better not get married, divorced, die, or buy property in the US because these are published public records.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 4:18pm

    Somebody needs to remind Christian Fuchs about a number of things wrong with his bullshit argument.

    First, this is NOT Europe. We have, what is often referred to as the Constitution of the United States. The first amendment protects many activities, including that of the free press.

    Second, the United States is a sovereign country and the United Nations has no jurisdiction over any American entity that exists and/or operates within the borders of the United States.

    Third, his claim that this is a human rights issue is so far beyond ridiculous that somebody needs to school him on this issue.

    Additionally, public information can be freely reported on and since his new home or apartment can be seen in public view, it's fair game. If he didn't want anybody reporting on his new home, he should just hide himself and his family in a cave somewhere, far from civilization where he can be as self-serving as he thinks he should be.

    One final note: Somebody, please, please, please call Christian Fuchs a WAAAAAAAAAAM-BULANCE.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 4:34pm

    Who does this Fuchs think he is? Erdogan? Sorry, dude, Angela Merkel doesn't bend over and grab her ankles in NYC.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2016 @ 8:22am

    Fifa tells the FA (UK football association) to "make an underdog" in order to distract from the investigation into MASSIVE worldwide corruption in football, including the fixes of pretty much every single international football match since 2002.

    Few months later lo and behold "an underdog story"...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous UK Resident #5424743871, 8 May 2016 @ 7:21am

      Re:

      It's a nice conspiracy theory, but the English FA (side note: Scotland, Wales and NI have their own FAs) just isn't that competent.

      And don't get me started on the completely wrong sending off of top scorer Jamie Vardy a few weeks back.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2016 @ 8:24am

    and cue footballer being involved in paedophilia / rape / beating someone in a nightclub because they're black......

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2016 @ 8:26am

    News flash: footballer wins title, claims it's all down to his loyalty to the team...then fucks off to whoever pays more money in a different country.

    but first, celebrity hats.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2016 @ 9:49am

    Barbra Streisand all over again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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