There is saturation in coverage of the upcoming interview with Oprah and Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. The increasingly public spit between the crown and the couple turns angry with an investigation into alleged bullying and abuse of household staff by Meghan. All this sensational coverage has distracted you from a far more substantive and costly affair. Meghan has just won a case against Associated Newspapers, and London High Court Judge Mark Warby’s verdict should be a matter of concern for anyone who values freedom of the press.
The case concerned the disclosure of details from a letter Meghan wrote to her estranged father after she married Prince Harry in 2018. She sued Associated Newspapers, which publishes British tabloids such as Daily Mail, MailOnline and Mail on Sunday, for disclosing private affairs and for copyright infringement of her letter.
In the United States, such a letter leaked to the media would be considered protected by freedom of the press. In addition, our unlawful act of public disclosure of embarrassing private facts precludes exclusion for “newsworthy” stories. The exception is so broad that many have complained that it “swallowed the illicit act”. For example, Sidis denied a former child prodigy’s privacy claim against FR Publishing Corp., 113 F.2d 806, 807 (2d Cir. 1940). The New York magazine article was a vicious and derisive report that it failed to meet the expectations of many. The court described the article as “a ruthless revelation of a once public character who has since sought seclusion and has now been deprived”. However, it noted that it did not invade its privacy under the offense because “regrettably or not, the misfortunes and weaknesses of neighbors and” public figures “are of considerable interest and discussion to the rest of the population. And if these are the customs of the church, it would be unwise for a court to forbid their expression in the newspapers, books and magazines of the day. “
In this case, the letter was leaked to the media or leaked. While Meghan could accuse her father or others of an invasion of privacy, she haunted the media and Judge Warby ruled not only in her favor but also against an appeal. He ordered the defendants to publish a report on the front page of their newspapers.
in the the regulationWarby just explained that
Meghan has called for the publication to go online for weeks, calling it a big win:
“The world needs reliable, fact-checked, high-quality news. What The Mail am Sonntag and its partner publications are doing is the opposite. We all lose when misinformation sells more than truth, when moral exploitation sells more than decency and when companies develop their business model to benefit from people’s pain, “Meghan said in a statement after the judgment, adding:” I share this Victory with each of you – because we all deserve justice and truth, and we all deserve better. “
I don’t see anything to celebrate. I have no love for tabloids, but I see no line protecting the free press in such a judgment. There is also the question of the copyright claim, which Warby has accepted: “The applicant further states that the letter is an original literary work in which the copyright exists; She is the author of this work and a draft that she created on her phone (“the electronic draft”). and the mail articles infringed their copyright by reproducing copies of a substantial portion of the electronic draft and / or the letter in physical form and by issuing and sharing them with the public. “
The defendant found that such a claim is valid in England:
36. Defendant acknowledges that the relevant qualification requirements were met so that “any literary work that was original and that was the plaintiff’s own intellectual output would be copyrighted in the UK and (if she were the only author) the first Owner of such a copyright. “It is undisputed that the electronic draft and the letter were both literary works recorded in writing on or before August 2018. Since the letter is entirely derived from the electronic draft, there is a question as to whether the requirement of originality is met. For the purposes of this application, however, the applicant limits its claim to an infringement of copyright in the electronic draft.
The more detailed question for the court was the question of the infringement, which, however, was again directed against the media. What is fascinating is that the letter was sent to a US reporter in which this would be protected, but Warby rejects the argument:
Here the work (at least in the case of the applicant) was not intended for commercial exploitation. However, the defendant was dealing with an unpublished work. If it had not been illegal to provide the letter to the defendant’s US reporter there, forwarding it to the defendant’s representatives here may have been illegal. The defendant copied a large and important part of the original literary content of the work. The use was in violation of the applicant’s data protection rights and, with the modest exception I noted, was irrelevant for a legitimate reporting purpose and disproportionate for such a purpose. There is no real prospect that the court would come to a different conclusion after a trial.
The result is a blow to the media being able to cover up-to-date material obtained from sources, even if it is legal or proprietary in the United States.
Personally, I have absolutely no interest in the royal family or Meghan’s relationship with her father or anyone else. However, this would clearly be considered timely in the United States. It shows the extreme differences between the two countries in terms of both freedom of expression and the free press. I was honored to work as a legal analyst for the BBC, and it remains a legendary journalistic organization. However, it is governed by a hazy set of laws that often treat journalism as a privilege. As with freedom of speech, the UK has fewer explicit or “clear rules” protecting rights. Meanwhile, the civil justice system is putting tremendous pressure on the media to get stories published. This includes defamation, privacy, and copyright laws that face heavy reporting penalties, which would be protected in the United States.
It is ironic and tragic that this “victory” was won by an American member of the royal family. However, it is a victory that no supporter of the free press should celebrate. For a couple who emphasize their good works, the free press doesn’t seem like one of those worthy causes.