Meghan Markle has won her lawsuit against Association Newspapers, which owns the Mail on Sunday, the British tabloid that published a private letter the duchess had written to her father, Thomas Markle. On Thursday, Judge Mark Warby granted summary judgment in Markle's favor over five articles published in February 2019 which reproduced parts of the handwritten letter, which the Duchess of Sussex had sent to her father following her May 2018 wedding to Prince Harry.
"The claimant had a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private. The Mail Articles interfered with that reasonable expectation," the judgement reads, though the point of whether Markle is the sole owner of the copyright or if she was a co-author due to alleged involvement by others in the editing of the letter could go to trial. PEOPLE reports that a hearing to decide the outstanding matters will take place on March 2, and there is an additional part of the case discussing alleged data privacy violations which has not yet been addressed.
The case began in October 2019 and has gone to court on multiple occasions, though Markle's legal team was seeking summary judgment to avoid a full trial. Should the copyright issue go to trial, royal staff may have to give evidence on who contributed to the creation 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," Warby said on Thursday. "There is no room for doubt that the defendant's conduct involved an infringement of copyright in the Electronic Draft of which the claimant was the owner or, at worst, a co-owner."
Following Thursday's judgment, Markle issued a personal statement sharing that she is "grateful to the courts for holding Associated Newspapers and The Mail on Sunday to account."
"These tactics (and those of their sister publications MailOnline and the Daily Mail) are not new; in fact, they've been going on for far too long without consequence," she continued. "For these outlets, it's a game. For me and so many others, it's real life, real relationships, and very real sadness. The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep. 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. We now know, and hope it creates legal precedent, that you cannot take somebody's privacy and exploit it in a privacy case, as the defendant has blatantly done over the past two years," Markle concluded. "I share this victory with each of you — because we all deserve justice and truth, and we all deserve better."
A spokesperson for the Mail on Sunday said in a statement, "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."