On 13 October 2015, the German Federal Court of Justice (VI ZR 271/14) ruled that ex-partners can
demand the deletion of intimate or revealing photographs and videos
once their relationship is over. In the case concerned, a man, a
professional photographer, had taken several erotic photos and
videos of his female partner, to which she had consented at the
time. After their relationship had ended, the woman demanded the
deletion of all intimate media, which the man refused. According to
the ruling, the pictures and videos showed the woman naked both
during and after sexual intercourse. She had also taken some of the
The Court ruled that even though the woman had consented to the
pictures being taken at the time, and that the man had to date
shown no intention of reproducing the pictures or putting them
online, her ex-partner still did not have the right to keep copies
of those pictures. Most notably, the Court held that the
woman's consent to create the photos in question does not rule
out withdrawing that consent in the future because intimate
photographs were related to the core of her personality right
("intimate sphere") as protected by the German Basic Law under Articles 1(1) and 2(1).
The protection afforded to the intimate sphere outweighed any
copyright protection or other professional or artistic freedoms
afforded to her ex-partner photographer.
The Federal Court of Justice, however, denied the woman's
request to force her then boyfriend to delete other photographs
taken of her. In relation to everyday type or holiday photographs,
the Court could not see a personality right infringement, since the
woman's reputation would not be lowered in the view of third
parties in case such photographs were to be made public.
Originally published January 14, 2016
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