The entertainment industry and the news media may disclose decades-old information from public records without violating a person’s right to privacy, the California Supreme Court has ruled. The Los Angeles Times says the unanimous decision overturned a 33-year-old ruling that the media complained had inhibited them from disclosing dated but truthful information in movies, television, and journalism. The decision was a loss for Steven Gates, who accused the Discovery Channel of invading his privacy after it repeatedly aired an hourlong show about a San Diego murder in which he had been convicted of being an accessory after the fact.
“Courts are not freed, by the mere passage of time, to impose sanctions on the publication of truthful information that is obtained from public official court records,” Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar wrote. “Any state interest in protecting, for rehabilitative purposes, the long-term anonymity of former convicts” is not compelling enough justification to violate 1st Amendment rights, she said.