Do the Dead Have a Right to Privacy?

Claude JutraIt is curious, in the aftermath of the revelation that the revered filmmaker Claude Jutra, who died in 1986, was a pedophile, that nobody has suggested publicly, as far as I know, that the biographer should have withheld this information.

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7 responses to “Do the Dead Have a Right to Privacy?

  1. David Schatzky

    What are the benefits of withholding such information?

    1. To protect the reputation of the person in question?

    2. To protect the feelings of his family, who may never have known?

    As for the first, the dead person will never know he’s been outed.
    Not a problem.
    A full picture of our “heroes” is very instructive.

    As for the second, that’s more difficult.
    It may be traumatic for some family members, a shock,
    and an invasion of their privacy.

    But does that outweigh the advantages of a person’s whole context emerging?

    • A third benefit might be to help psychotherapists understand the nature of pedophilia. Would Claude Jutra have been the artist he was without it?

  2. The traditional common-law position was, and for all I know, still is that the right to sue for libel does not survive the death of the person defamed. Moreover, can it not be argued that privacy and reputation rights are integral to personhood and, therefore, when personhood ends so do those interests?

  3. It was misleading to introduce the concept of privacy because of its meaning in law. Biographers surely occasionally face the dilemma whether or not to besmirch the reputation of their subject if it is not an existential matter. In the case of Jutra, pedophilia may — or may not — have been.

  4. Only if they insist on it while still alive and give a credible reason which may or may not be legally admissible.

  5. I am pondering the question of whom are we judging? Is it Jutra the man or Jutra the art? His work stands up very well, I continue to be delighted by his art.
    As he is dead, his sordid escapades’ only use is to provide historical context. Many others have created great work and been remarkable unlikable folk.
    So what aspect of Jutra is the fuss about?

  6. Let’s hope this doesn’t affect obituaries. As it is I think Quebec is the only place where the dead, or least their estates, can sue.