Wolf Theiss acts on Facebook defamation case against Austrian press

Austrian firm Wolf Theiss is advising a Slovakian student in a defamation case against three Viennese newspapers after her photo was mistakenly used in a story about a murdered prostitute.

Three of Austria’s daily newspapers – Heute, Kronen Zeitung and Österreich – used photographs from the Facebook page of 22-year-old Slovakian Student Lucie R to illustrate a story about a murdered prostitute whose body was found in Vienna on 27 August.

The confusion arose because the claimant shared the same name as the murder victim.

One of the newspapers, Krone Zeitung, then repeated its mistake, replacing the claimant’s image with another wrong image, but this time obscuring the person’s eyes. This second person is not being advised by Wolf Theiss.

Vienna-based Wolf Theiss attorney Birgit Kraml is advising the woman, known as Ms R, and has filed a claim for defamation in the Criminal High Court in Vienna seeking the maximum damages.

The firm is also considering bringing copyright claims against the newspapers in the Austrian civil court, an avenue that could lead to higher compensation.

According to Kraml, the case raises important issues regarding compensation levels. Under Austrian law, awards in defamation and libel cases are limited – rarely exceeding several thousand euros – and only provide nominal compensation for pain suffered, meaning there is little deterrent for perpetrators to be more careful at a time when social networking sites are making these cases more common.

Kraml declined to comment on the fee arrangement for the case.