On 13 October 2015, the German Federal Court of Justice (VI ZR 271/14) ruled that ex-lovers can demand the deletion of intimate or revealing photographs and videos once a 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. The pictures and videos showed the woman naked both during and after sexual intercourse. She had also taken some of the pictures herself. After their relationship ended, the woman demanded that all of the intimate media be deleted, but the man refused to do so.
Even though the woman had consented to the pictures being taken at the time, and the man, to date, had shown no intention of reproducing the pictures or putting them online, the Federal Court of Justice ruled that the man still did not have the right to keep copies of those pictures and videos. Most notably, the Court held that the woman’s consent to create the photos in question did not rule out her 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 Constitution (“Grundgesetz”) 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.
However, the Federal Court of Justice denied the woman’s request to force her ex-boyfriend to delete other, non-erotic photographs he had taken of her during their relationship. The Court could not see a personality right infringement with regard to everyday type or holiday photographs, since the woman’s reputation would not be lowered in the view of third parties in case such photographs were to be made public.