The take-over and appropriation of denigrating material by a private person does not benefit from the protection of the right to free expression

In a dispute concerning the copying, redistribution and appropriation of denigrating material, the High Court of Cassation and Justice held that a private person acting on his own behalf, taking-over information from the online environment and distributing it to a larger number of recipients, is not subject to the imperatives influencing the activity of the press and does not benefit from the same freedom of expression in this respect. Thus, the High Court of Cassation and Justice upheld the decision of the court of appeal by which the defendant was ordered to pay the plaintiff RON 2,000 as moral damages for the distribution of offensive material against the plaintiff.

In the present case, the plaintiff has requested that the defendant be ordered to pay the amount of RON 250,000 as damages for the prejudice caused as a result of the publication of a defamatory article against the plaintiff on a page managed by the defendant and that the defendant be ordered to delete that article. The first court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim and the court of appeal admitted the plaintiff’s appeal in part, ordering the defendant to pay RON 2,000 as moral damages and dismissing the other pleas.

In his second appeal, the defendant invoked Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, arguing that he has a freedom of expression similar to that of a journalist, as he has the right to take over on his page a text from another page of the social network, which did not belong to him. The High Court of Cassation and Justice held that the material copied, redistributed, and appropriated by the defendant was of a denigrating and offensive nature to the plaintiff and dismissed the second appeal. The High Court of Cassation and Justice held that “a private person acting on his own behalf within his circle of contacts, by taking over information from the online environment and distributing it in order to ensure that it is communicated to a larger number of recipients, cannot be said to be subject to the imperatives which influence the activity of the press (the urgency of communicating information without further verification, the ethical obligations to present information, the purpose for which he is acting)”.

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