Background

We have previously reported on Meghan Markle’s battle against the Mail on Sunday and Mail Online for misuse of private information, breach of data protection and infringement of copyright.  

In the latest development of this case, High Court Judge Warby has decided that the Mail on Sunday and Mail Online did misuse Meghan’s private information and are guilty of copyright infringement, having republished large parts of a letter Meghan sent to her father on 27th August 2018. The letter first became public on 6th February 2019 when it was mentioned in an article in the US magazine People. 

Meghan’s father then provided Associated Newspapers with a copy of the letter, and large copies of the letter were then reproduced in the Mail on Sunday and Mail Online on 9th February 2019.    

Misuse of private information

Regarding Meghan’s claim for misuse of private information, the Judge held that Meghan had a reasonable expectation that her letter to her father would remain private. In coming to this conclusion, the Judge rejected the newspaper’s arguments that:

  • Meghan had no expectation of privacy because she had caused or permitted information about the existence and content of the letter to enter the public domain; and
  • Meghan had no expectation of privacy because it could be inferred that she used the letter as part of a media strategy to improve or enhance her image.  

At a hearing on 2nd March 2021, Associated Newspapers asked Judge Warby for permission to appeal his decision. Their request was refused on the basis that the appeal had no prospects of success. Notwithstanding this, Associated Newspapers can apply to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal.

Copyright infringement

In regards to Meghan’s claim for copyright infringement, the Judge held that Meghan’s letter to her father was an original literary work and that Associated Newspapers had reproduced substantial parts of it, therefore infringing copyright.  

There does remain an unresolved issue concerning the copyright claim, which concerns whether Meghan was the sole author of the letter. This issue will have to be resolved at a later hearing and revolves around whether Meghan got assistance from the Kensington Palace communications team in drafting the letter to her father. 

If this joint authorship point makes it to trial, the Court will benefit from some helpful guidance from two recent decisions in the Kogan v Martin dispute related to joint authorship in a screenplay. Given the decisions made in the Kogan v Martin dispute, it may be harder for Meghan to argue that she was the sole author of the letter she sent to her father. 

Conclusion

There will be a further hearing in March to decide the next steps in this legal battle. In addition to the unresolved issue as to whether Meghan was the sole author of the letter, Meghan’s data protection claim has also not been determined. 

There is also the question of what damages Meghan may be awarded for the misuse of her private information, copyright infringement and data protection breaches.

Here to Help

Our specialist Intellectual Property Disputes Team routinely advise on a broad range of disputes relating to copyright, trademarks, patents and design rights, along with matters relating to data protection and confidential information. If you would like further information or assistance, our Intellectual Property Disputes Solicitors would be happy to help. You can contact us on 0161 941 4000 or email The Intellectual Property Team for more information.