Did Gawker Invade Hulk Hogan's Privacy With Sex Tape Publication?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on March 07, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Former wrestler Hulk Hogan is taking on a different kind of opponent today, Gawker Media. Opening statements were heard in his suit in Florida against the website for posting a sex tape that shows him sleeping with shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge's wife in 2012, according to Reuters.

"They have essentially replaced sticks and stones with clicks and phones," Hogan's attorney said of Gawker. The Hulk and the Love Sponge were best friends before the scandal, one of a few for Hogan. They aren't anymore and Hogan says Gawker invaded his privacy by publicizing the tape. Here's the story, and why Gawker claims it was just reporting.

Invasion of Privacy?

Hulk Hogan says he didn't know he was being filmed and that Gawker invaded his privacy by posting an excerpt of this intimate moment in which he betrayed his best friend with the man's wife. Meanwhile, Gawkers says it was just reporting on the activities of a public figure, a fellow who is not bashful about his sex life.

Stars seek the limelight and as such should not be surprised when they find themselves in it. Nobody said all news would be good news and anyway all news is attention, which celebrities love, and which Hogan got a lot of. But if the posting is found by the jury to be a public disclosure of private facts of no legitimate concern to the world, then Gawker is guilty of invading Hogan's privacy.

Within six months of its posting, the sex tape got more than 2.5 million views, according to Hogan's attorney. He argues that Gawker profited from invading Hogan's privacy, generating interest in the site. Hogan hopes his injury from the invasion of privacy will be awarded with $100 million in damages.

Gawking, Not Profiting?

Gawker, which started as a gossip site and now focuses on news, makes no bones about what it does. The name says it all. But the defense does claim that the Hogan tape was deliberately flagged to not be attached to advertising, thus reinforcing the assertion Gawker simply provided a reporting service.

"Gawker believes this kind of reporting is important," company attorney Mike Berry told jurors in his opening statements. "It is important for writers to be able to address uncomfortable subjects -- whether the subject is mental health, whether the subject is drugs, whether the subject is celebrity sex tapes."

Early in the Proceedings

Whether the defense will convince jurors or Hogan will prevail in his effort to wrestle Gawker remains to be seen. It's early in the proceedings. One thing is certain, the trial will keep reminding everyone of that private moment Hulk Hogan says should never have been exposed publicly.

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