“I don’t hate lies, I find them healthy and I use them to hide my person”.
Thus, it’s written in the autobiography entitled La Frantumaglia by the famous and mysterious Elena Ferrante, whose identity seems to be revealed today.
The author of books become bestsellers is, according to a recent 24Ore’s report, Anita Raja, a translator born in Naples and resident in Rome, whose mother was a Polish Jew escaped from Holocaust. Therefore, the mystery of Elena Ferrante seems to be resolved. Thus, the millions of readers’ (lawful?) dream, who wish to know the name and person behind the famous pseudonym, finally come true.
Firstly, the question is if the report has violated the right of pseudonym. The pseudonym indeed can be used to conceal its true identity, so as an expression of privacy right.
According to Civil Code, pseudonym is a name different from the one attributed by law. However, it can be protected as well as the right to have a name, provided that the pseudonym has achieved the name’s importance otherwise it has carried out the same social identification’s function. If this requirement occurs, (i.e. writers and actors whose pseudonyms are more famous than their name) the person who use pseudonym can demand a restraining order and claim the termination of the pseudonym’s unlawful use, without prejudice to compensation.
However, it doesn’t seem to be the case. The Sole 24ore’s report indeed doesn’t infringe the famous writer’s pseudonym, on the contrary it seems to violate her right to anonymity. The problem is that according to Italian legal system, the general right to anonymity doesn’t exist.
Could Elena Ferrante, who has always said that she doesn’t want to reveal her real identity, invoke protection of Privacy Right (that it is increasingly being denied to public figures)?
Before Privacy Law entered into force, the source of the right to be left alone was a 1975 Italian High Court judgment, that describes this right as the protection of personal and family situations and events which, although they occur outside domestic context, they don’t have a socially valuable public interest. Therefore, violation of right to privacy means any interference that, even if it is carried out by lawful means and for non-offensive purposes, is not justified by reasonable public interests.
Eventually, jurisprudence specified that famous people are supposed to have waved to the part of Privacy Right which is connected to the public context.
Therefore, the line between the right to privacy and the right to information seemed to be the subject’s fame. However, even very popular people retain the privacy right, limited to facts which have nothing to do with the reasons for their popularity.
The relationship between the right to report and privacy right is very complex and it is regulated by a set of rules stratified over time which have tried to establish a proper balance between the different interests.
There are several privacy rules that journalists have to respect.
The 675/1996 Law regarding Personal Data Protection, then become “Italian Personal data Protection Code” (Legislative Decree no. 196 of 30 June 2003), has created an extensive system of balancing conflicting rights through the provision of several legal means: balancing policies, procedures to accomplish it, jurisdictional instruments.
Italian Law provides different guarantees depending on the nature of Data. Briefly, the use of Personal Data is possible if three conditions are met:
The use of Personal Data shall be related to freedom of expression
Personal Data shall concern public interest facts
the spread shall occur "within essential limits", that is, it is not possible to insert non-strictly necessary information.
The report on the true identity of Elena Ferrante has not been clearly neither confirmed nor disproved. Therefore, if she is really Anita Raja is still a mystery.