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Kate Middleton's Topless Photo Taker: Jail Time, Huge Fine a Possibility

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton John Stillwell- WPA Pool/Getty Images

Did the paparazzo who zoomed in on Kate Middleton and her naked chest commit a crime?

Sacre bleu—quite possibly!

A French attorney tells E! News that the Duchess of Cambridge—who, with the weight of the royal family behind her, has already sued the tabloid that published topless photos of her—has the option of lodging a criminal complaint.

Why did Kate Middleton sue but Prince Harry didn't?

The pics that ended up on the cover (and within the pages) of French mag Closer were allegedly taken from half a mile away while Kate was sunning herself with husband Prince William at what they presumably thought was a private chateau in Provence.

"If photographs of Kate Middleton have been taken and published without her consent during her holidays, she may file a complaint on the basis of article 9 of the French civil code and article 226-1 of the penal code," says attorney Pierre Hourcade (who is not associated with the royal).

Hourcade says that French law dictates that people have the right to respect for their private lives and, as a picture of a person is considered an attribute of that person, photographic images fall under that protection.

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If convicted of violating a person's right to privacy, punishment is up to a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros, or almost $60,000.

And even the fact that Kate and her hubby were on vacation factors into what is or isn't legal, according to Hourcade.

He says that public figures like Will and Kate can be photographed by anyone without personal authorization only so long as they are in a public space performing their official duties. But, he adds, if they are in a public space and on holiday when photographed, that can constitute a violation of the aforementioned codes because there has been a theft of private image.

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Moreover, if the sneaky shutterbug who took the photos of Kate is convicted, the magazine that published the images could end up having the photos seized or be compelled to publish the result of the duchess' legal action on its cover.

Now that sounds sexy.

Laurence Pieau, the editor of the under-the-gun Closer, defended the decision to publish the photos—which have since been removed from the French publication's website—calling them "beautiful" and "not in the least bit shocking."

The photos disappeared from their site hours after the magazine's brand owner, the U.K.-based Bauer Media, demanded that they pull the photos down and desist from publishing any further pictures, calling the so-called scoop a "gross intrusion of their Royal Highnesses' privacy."

Check out the fully authorized, entirely gorgeous pics of Kate Middleton and Prince William on their Diamond Jubilee tour

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