Denver, CO—The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court has issued a ruling on the case Raphael v. National Geographic, granting the plaintiff $115 million in damages and fees.
The case centered around a video recorded in 2013 and broadcast the following year as part of a special series on beach ecosystems. The video depicted the plaintiff, Raphael, mating with a female tortoise whose name has been kept undisclosed during the court proceedings.
Before its airing, Raphael learned from a National Geographic employee that the video would be part of the upcoming episode. Raphael immediately filed a cease and desist order, and the episode was postponed for several weeks. Eventually National Geographic defied the order and aired the episode anyway, at which point the lawsuit was filed by Raphael.
The lawsuit alleged that the video was taken without Raphael’s consent, was broadcast both against his will and in defiance of the cease and desist order, and violated his privacy as a private reptilian citizen.
National Geographic’s defense was that the video was taken at a public beach where the tortoise would not have had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Furthermore, their legal team states that broadcasting the video was in the public interest, and that by broadcasting the video Raphael in fact became a public figure, which changes how privacy cases are legally handled.
After a series of appeals and countersuits, the Tenth Circuit decision settles the case for good, obligating National Geographic to pay $115 million in damages and legal fees.
Raphael has stated he intends to return to private life.
“I’ve had offers to speak in interviews and be part of a documentary about the whole case, but to be honest, I really just want to retreat back to the beach and get back to doing what I’m used to doing.”
National Geographic declined to comment for the article.