A case that I discussed in March of 2006, when this blog was in its infancy, has made its way to the New York Court of Appeals. The case is Nussenzweig v diCorcia, 2007 NY Slip Op 08783 and involves an Hasidic Jew, a photographer and an art exhibition.
It seems that one of the defendants, a famous photographer, snapped a picture of the plaintiff, a Hasidic Jew, sometime between 1999-2001. The plaintiff was unaware that his image had been captured.
In the Fall of 2001, the disputed image was included in an art exhibition. The plaintiff learned of this fact in March of 2005 and shortly thereafter, commenced this lawsuit alleging that the defendants had violated his statutory right of privacy as set forth in Civil Rights Law §§ 50 and 51.
The Court of Appeals concluded that the lawsuit was untimely, sinnce the statute begins to run from the date of publication, rather than the date of discovery of the publication:
Pursuant to CPLR 215(3), "an action to recover damages for . . . libel, slander . . . or a violation of the right of privacy under section fifty-one of the civil rights law" must be brought within one year. In Gregoire v G.P. Putnam's Sons, this Court formulated the single publication rule, which states that a cause of action for defamation accrues on the date the offending material is first published (298 NY 119, 125-126 )...
The policy underlying the adoption of that rule is likewise implicated here and we therefore hold that the single publication rule applies to claims brought pursuant to Civil Rights Law §§ 50 and 51. Because the publishing event giving rise to plaintiff's right of privacy claims first occurred no later than the fall of 2001, more than one year before he commenced suit, plaintiff's claims are time-barred.
Bummer for the plaintiff and for the rest of us. Although we now know that standing around in Times Square is not an unlawful offense, it seems that we're still left to ponder the issue of whether New York's Civil Rights laws apply there.