France's first lady wins damages over nude bags

/ Source: news services

A French court has ordered a clothing firm to pay 40,000 euros ($56,200) in damages for distributing bags bearing a nude image of France's first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

The photo dates from Bruni-Sarkozy's modeling days. She was seeking 125,000 euros in damages from clothing vendor Pardon, which distributed the bags to its clients.

"The unauthorized use of the image of Carla Bruni caused her moral and economic damage," the court said on Thursday.

Pardon said it will appeal Thursday's ruling, handed down by a court on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion, where the company is based. The firm also is promising to destroy the 5,500 Bruni bags it has left.

The founder and manager of the Pardon chain, Peter Mertes, said 40,000 euros seemed expensive to him for "a small blunder."

Bruni-Sarkozy, 40, rose to fame as a model before becoming a successful pop singer. Public interest in her has surged since her whirlwind romance with President Nicolas Sarkozy, whom she married in February less than three months after they met.

The nude image printed on the Pardon bags was in the news earlier in the year, when an original black-and-white print of the Michel Comte photo fetched $91,000 at auction in New York.

It shows the young Bruni-Sarkozy standing in a pigeon-toed pose, covering her private parts with her hands.

Bruni-Sarkozy's lawyers have said that she would donate any damages to charity.