Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, F-R Publishing Corp. (Defendant), wrote an article about the Plaintiff, William James Sidis (Plaintiff) who was once a public figure. The article was of public interest, however, it intruded upon the Plaintiff’s private life. The Plaintiff sued the Defendant for intrusion on his right to privacy.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Certain public figures must sacrifice their privacy and expose at least part of their lives to public scrutiny as the price of the power they attain.
Issue. Is an invasion of privacy actionable if the Plaintiff was a public figure and the statements printed were of interest to the public?
Held. No. Judgment affirmed.
* The right to privacy must stem from the famous article by Warren and Brandeis on The Right of [to] Privacy in 4 Harv. L. Rev. 193. Warren and Brandeis realized that the interest of the individual in privacy must inevitably conflict with the interest of the public news. Certain public figures, they conceded, such as holders of public office, must sacrifice their privacy and expose at least part of their lives to public scrutiny as the price of the power they attain.
* The Plaintiff was once a public figure. As a child prodigy, he excited both admiration and curiosity. Of him great deeds were expected. The article in The New Yorker sketched the life of an unusual personality and it possessed considerable popular news interest. The Court expressed no comment on whether or not the new worthiness of the matter printed will always constitute a complete defense.
Discussion. In this case, the Plaintiff was a very prominent public figure. Despite his effort to remain out of the public eye, the article in The New Yorker was written about him. However, in this case, the newsworthiness of the article is a defense to the Plaintiff’s claim of invasion of privacy.