From Angelina and Brad to Nicole or Russell, pesky paparazzi and mass-market magazines represent a dilemma that exasperates the biggest stars. Invaluable when it comes to publicity, they are downright infuriating to celebrities if an embarrassing moment is revealed to the world. Until now the reality of high-profile private lives as public property has been regarded - often through gleaming gritted teeth - as an occupational hazard. But the privacy landscape may be changing. A spate of recent legal developments has raised the prospect of restrictions on magazines and other popular sources using the kind of unauthorised celebrity material that is key to their success. This month an Australian court joined those tipping the scales in favour of people concerned about unwanted intrusion - usually the famous and powerful. Appeal judges considering a case in which a couple filmed themselves having sex ruled that the woman had been the victim of a breach of confidence when her ex-boyfriend showed the tape to others. Before the landmark decision, to succeed in such a claim a woman had to prove she had suffered a psychiatric injury. But this victim was awarded A$40,000 (HK$218,200) on the basis that she had merely experienced distress. Although the case itself had nothing to do with the rich and famous - or the media - the potential consequences for both are substantial. Legal experts say celebrities now have more scope to take action against the media. 'There are significant ramifications, especially for paparazzi or chequebook-style media organisations who rely on 'gotcha'-style photos and publications,' said media lawyer Victoria Chylek. 'If information, photos or film are obtained in circumstances amounting to a breach of confidence, the path has now been cleared for damages from their publication.' With no precedents in Australia, Victoria's Court of Appeal sought guidance from two notorious cases that have contributed to a shift in the privacy balance in Britain. The first involved the drawn-out battle involving Hollywood movie stars Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who sued Hello! magazine after unauthorised photos were taken at their wedding. Also cited was a 2004 case sparked by revelations in the Daily Mirror that Naomi Campbell was receiving treatment for drug addiction and attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Faced with the age-old dilemma of balancing the public interest against what the public might find interesting, the judges in effect imposed a tougher threshold on the former. That has substantial implications for the editors of Britain's voracious tabloids, who can no longer be confident the kind of titillating or scandalous scoops in which they specialise will pass the public interest test. Calls are also growing for media organisations to be forced to alert the subjects of stories in advance, to allow them to seek an injunction preventing publication. That is being vigorously pursued by Formula One boss Max Mosley, who this year was awarded #60,000 (HK$716,300) - the highest in the UK for a privacy breach - after the News of the World secretly filmed him in what it called a 'sick Nazi orgy with five hookers'. The case sparked a fierce debate over the merits of privacy versus the threats to free speech and democracy. Privacy advocates say they want tougher restrictions on the media to protect ordinary people such as victims of crime or their families. 'We have to accept that celebrities and the rich and famous will obviously be collateral or beneficiaries of any right of action,' said Nigel Waters, spokesman for the Australian Privacy Foundation. He said the Mosley case was a classic example of the 'self-serving' argument run by 'a lot of the media that anything that sells newspapers is in the public interest'. 'It was a private activity. It wasn't as though Mosley was preaching about those sorts of issues.' To the chagrin of many in the Australian media, new privacy proposals have renewed a 'public interest' debate they thought had been won two years ago. Revamped defamation laws introduced in 2006 abolished the need to prove a public interest even when information in dispute was entirely true. It was widely greeted as a victory for press freedom. But the nation's Law Reform Commission has included a public-interest threshold within proposals that would - if enacted in law - protect people against invasions of privacy. One of Australia's leading experts on media and defamation law, Peter Bartlett, believes a landmark privacy case involving Princess Caroline of Monaco could be replicated Down Under as a result. The princess won damages in Germany after photographs were published of her with her children in a public place. In Britain, author J.K. Rowling was successful in a similar case after she was photographed taking her son to a cafe. 'Australia does not have the tabloid press of London,' Mr Bartlett told The Australian newspaper. 'If these proposals are introduced, there is no doubt it will limit what the media can publish, will limit investigative journalism and will result in the public's right to know being impaired.' But the Privacy Foundation says the public interest threshold ensures legitimate journalism will be unaffected. 'The media reaction to the privacy proposals and general statutory causes of action is a bit hysterical,' said Mr Waters. 'It would be good if there was a more rational debate about where the public-interest balance lies.'