Playboy Targets Magazine as It Launches French Website

Rhett Pardon
PARIS – Playboy Enterprises Inc. is asking a French court on Tuesday to criminally charge the owner of French women’s weekly Voici for republishing Playboy content.

Chicago-based Playboy had also filed a civil suit seeking $490,000 in damages after Voici used miniatures of the magazine layouts.

Voici publisher Prisma Presse and chief executive Axel Ganz have been ordered to a preliminary hearing to face accusations of “counterfeiting by publication or reproduction.”

The legal action comes after Playboy expanded its online and wireless content in France this month.

Playboy's new website marks the fifth international Playboy site with other countries, which include Germany, Taiwan, Holland and Brazil. Playboy is partnering with 1633SA, which also publishes its French magazine.

Playboy.fr mirrors content originating from its American version. The translated site includes advertising, subscription-based clubs and e-commerce offerings, as well as streaming video and live event coverage.

Voici published page reproductions in its Oct. 6 edition measuring 3”x2” from a Playboy photo shoot with Daryl Hannah, featuring the naked actress in a pair of pink roller boots. Voici republished photos of actress Shannen Doherty the following month.

Hannah’s and Doherty’s photo shoots featured in Voici before they had appeared in Playboy’s French magazine, which often publishes pictures weeks after the U.S. edition.

“They felt we’d damaged their business and that because we’d shown their photos, people wouldn’t buy their magazine afterward,” Voici editor Hedi Dahmani told The Associated Press.

French law takes a tough stance on intellectual property, and breaking copyright can be a criminal offense, allowing rights holders to choose between the civil and penal system to seek redress.

Playboy’s chief legal counsel, Anna Cashman, did not immediately return calls from XBiz.com.

Voice officials argue that using images from other publications in press reviews is common practice among the media in France, and that nearly 70 percent of Voici’s 3.9 million readers are women.