Mail on Sunday infringed Markle’s copyright, High Court rules


Rory O'Neill

Mail on Sunday infringed Markle’s copyright, High Court rules

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Meghan Markle has won her privacy and copyright infringement case against the Mail on Sunday, which published extracts of a letter she wrote to her father.

The Duchess of Sussex sued the UK newspaper claiming violations of copyright, privacy, and data protection laws. The UK High Court ruled in Markle’s favour yesterday, December 12, while minor issues over copyright ownership are yet to be resolved.

Justice Mark Warby wrote in his summary judgment yesterday that the Mail’s factual and legal defences “both seem to me to occupy the shadowland between improbability and unreality”.

In February 2019, the Mail on Sunday published extracts of a letter Markle sent to her father, which the judge ruled both violated her privacy and infringed her copyright.

On the copyright issues, the Mail on Sunday owner Associated Newspapers suggested that Jason Knauf, who at the time served as Kensington Palace’s director of communications, may have co-authored the letter and that his involvement meant the letter was covered by Crown copyright.

Warby was unconvinced, writing: “It is not possible to envisage a court concluding that Mr Knauf’s contribution to the work as a whole was more than modest. The suggestion that his contribution generated a separate copyright, as opposed to a joint one is, in my judgment at the very outer margins of what is realistic.”

The issue of whether Knauf is a co-author of the letter will be decided at a later trial, Warby ruled, but the judge noted that this was “of minor significance in the overall context”. If Knauf is found to be a co-author, it would affect the remedies available to Markle on the issues of copyright infringement.

The judge said there was no doubt that Markle’s copyright had been infringed in the Mail on Sunday’s publication of the letter: “ At worst, therefore, the claimant is a co-author of a work of joint authorship, and entitled to relief for infringement of her share in the copyright.”

In a statement, Markle said: “After two long years of pursuing litigation, I am grateful to the courts for holding Associated Newspapers and the Mail on Sunday to account for their illegal and dehumanising practices.

“The world needs reliable, fact-checked, high-quality news. What the Mail on Sunday and its partner publications do is the opposite. We all lose when misinformation sells more than truth, when moral exploitation sells more than decency, and when companies create their business model to profit from people’s pain.

“But, for today, with this comprehensive win on both privacy and copyright, we have all won.”

A spokesperson for Associated Newspapers said: “We are very surprised by today’s summary judgment and disappointed at being denied the chance to have all the evidence heard and tested in open court at a full trial. We are carefully considering the judgment’s contents and will decide in due course whether to lodge an appeal.”

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Mail on Sunday, Meghan Markle, copyright, letter, UK High Court, Mark Warby, Associated Newspapers