(CN) - Gawker should not have had to remove a sex tape starring Hulk Hogan that was allegedly filmed and released without his knowledge, an appeals court ruled.
Terry Bollea, who rocketed to wrestling stardom in the 1980s as Hulk Hogan, had sued the media gossip website in October 2012, about a week after its writer A.J. Daulerio published an excerpt from his videotaped extramarital dalliance with Heather Clem.
Hogan claimed that Clem and her former husband, disc jockey Todd "Bubba the Love Sponge" Clem, secretly recorded the video in 2006 and released it without Hogan's knowledge.
A Florida judge ordered Gawker to remove the video and the article, but the Second District Court of Appeal reversed Friday.
"A temporary injunction aimed at speech, as it is here, is a classic example of prior restraint of speech triggering First Amendment concerns," Judge Anthony Black wrote for a three-judge panel.
"Mr. Bollea openly discussed an affair he had while married to Linda Bollea in his published autobiography ("My Life Outside the Ring") and otherwise discussed his family, marriage and sex life through various media outlets," the judge added.
By the time Hogan sued, other media outlets had already reported on the existence of the sex tape, and some of them included screen shots from it, according to the ruling.
"Despite Mr. Bollea's public persona, we do not suggest that every aspect of his private life is a subject of public concern," Black wrote. "However, the mere fact that the publication contains arguably inappropriate and otherwise sexually explicit content does not remove it from the realm of legitimate public interest."
Hogan also stoked the story's flames, according to the ruling, by telling TMZ in 2012 that he did not know who was in the sex tape with him since he had made so many "conquests" during the relevant time period.
On "The Howard Stern Show" later in 2012, Hogan also revealed that Todd Clem had allowed him to have sex with his wife, the court found.
In this case, Gawker was reporting on the story rather than profiting on it, according to the ruling.
"Gawker Media has not attempted to sell the sex tape or any of the material creating the instant controversy, for that matter," Black wrote. "Rather, Gawker Media reported on Mr. Bollea's extramarital affair and complementary thereto posted excerpts from the video."
Hulk and Linda Hogan starred in the reality show "Hogan Knows Best" with their children, Nick and Brooke, before divorcing in 2009.
Hogan's star rose in the '80s when he appeared as Thunderlips in "Rocky III" and when he won his first WWE title from The Iron Sheik in 1984. Hogan has won 12 world titles and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.
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