The Duchess of Sussex is walking away with an initial victory in her lawsuit against the tabloids. The suit was the result of five articles containing excerpts of personal letters from Meghan Markle to her father, Thomas Markle, published in 2019 by the Mail on Sunday. Here’s what we know so far.
Meghan Markle’s Letters Were Private
The judge presiding over the case granted summary judgement in Markle’s favor, ruling against Associated Newspapers Ltd, the publisher of the Mail on Sunday, for misuse of private information. The cause for the ruling was essentially that Markle was right to view the letters as a purely private matter that would remain private, and the tabloids publishing of the letters, along with its reckless speculation about how Markle felt about the situation, violated that privacy.
“It was, in short, a personal and private letter,” Lord Justice Warby declared. “The majority of what was published was about the claimant’s own behaviour, her feelings of anguish about her father’s behaviour — as she saw it — and the resulting rift between them. These are inherently private and personal matters.”
Markle, the ruling found, had “a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private,” and the five articles in question “interfered with that reasonable expectation.” The only way the tabloids could have gotten away with any sort of discussion of the private material, the judge explained, would be “to correct some inaccuracies about the letter,” as other publications did.
Those corrections would ideally contain as little of the letters as possible, but what the Mail on Sunday did was nowhere close to the acceptable standard. “Taken as a whole the disclosures were manifestly excessive and hence unlawful,” the ruling concluded. Of course, there’s also the problem that by publishing the letters, the tabloid “copied a large and important proportion of the work’s original literary content,” meaning the outlet infringed Markle’s copyright.
In all, Associated Newspapers looks to be on the hook for alleged breach of the United Kingdom’s Data Protection Act, misuse of private information, and copyright infringement. Damages have yet to be determined, and while it’s impossible to truly recover from such a massive breach of privacy, it seems like Markle will walk away with a fair amount of restitution. There’s also the possibility that the copyright of the letters is shared with the Duchess of Sussex’s former communications secretary, which would be determined at a trial.