Meghan Markle filed a lawsuit against Associated Newspapers, which owns Mail on Sunday, in 2019. The Duchess of Sussex accused the British tabloid of violating her privacy after it published contents of her emotional letter to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.
According to Hollywood Reporter, a judge ruled that the newspaper invaded the former actress’s privacy when it made excerpts of the private letter publicly available. Markel wrote the letter to her father in 2018.
Markle also filed a copyright infringement claim against the U.K. tabloid, but the claim is more complicated because she may not be the sole owner of the copyright.
Why did Meghan Markle sue Mail on Sunday?
Markle alleged the tabloid breached her privacy and copyright when it published five articles that contained parts of her private and confidential letter to her father. Two of the articles were published by Mail on Sunday, and the other three appeared on MailOnline.
The existence of Markle’s letter to her father was first mentioned in an article published by People. After that story, Markle’s father provided a copy of the letter to Mail on Sunday, according to the lawsuit.
What did the British tabloid say in its defense?
The British tabloid defended itself by alleging that the Duchess of Sussex had no reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private. The newspaper also denied that it had invaded Markle’s privacy because she is a member of the royal family and claimed that there is a “public interest” in publishing the letter because the People article misled the readers.
However, Justice Mark Warby didn’t agree with the tabloid’s arguments. Warby issued a summary judgment in Markle’s favor for her claim on the invasion of privacy. As for her copyright infringement claim, Warby ruled the issue over ownership of copyright should be decided at trial.
The owner of the tabloid argued that Markle was not the sole owner of the copyright of the letter because a member of the Kensington Palace staff, Jason Knauf, was involved “in wording” the letter. Markle originally composed the letter to her father on her smartphone. Then, it was transcribed into a handwritten letter.
Warby called the tabloid’s defense to the privacy claim as “fanciful.”
Did Meghan Markle win the privacy claim against the tabloid?
Yes. Justice Warby said that the Duchess of Sussex had “a reasonable expectation” that the letter would remain private. The newspaper interfered with Markle’s reasonable expectation by revealing the contents of the letter to the public, Warby ruled.
Warby also reasoned that the “only tenable justification” for interfering with Markle’s reasonable expectation of privacy would be to correct the misleading information and inaccuracies about the contents of the letter contained in the People article.
However, after thoroughly analyzing the five articles by the tabloid, Warby ruled that publishing Markle’s letter sent to her estranged father “did not serve that purpose at all.” Warby said that the articles were “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful.”
Interestingly, Markle lost the first round of the legal battle against the tabloid in May 2020 when Warby struck out parts of her claim against the defendant, according to NBC News.
What do you think? Should members of the Royal Family have a privacy right in their correspondence?