Meghan Markle's court win must be Mail On Sunday front page, judge rules

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Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·5 min read
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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 02: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visit the Tembisa Township to learn about Youth Employment Services on October 02, 2019 in Tembisa, South Africa.  (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)
Meghan in South Africa in October 2019. She won her privacy claim against the Mail On Sunday. (WireImage)

Meghan Markle will receive a front page statement about her court win on the Mail On Sunday after it published extracts of a private letter she wrote to her father, a judge has ruled.

The Mail On Sunday will have to run the statement about the duchess winning the copyright claim against it, a request made by the duchess in the last hearing in the High Court.

MailOnline will also have to run a notice on its site. The duchess's legal team had asked for this notice to run for six months, but Lord Justice Warby said it should run for one week.

Meghan, 39, sued the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline after it printed extracts of a letter she wrote to her father, Thomas Markle Snr, soon after he missed her wedding to Prince Harry in May 2018.

He was not able to attend because he was undergoing hospital treatment.

Meghan sued for breach of privacy and copyright infringement, and called the win "comprehensive" when Lord Justice Warby agreed with her in a summary judgement.

However there may be more to come in the case, as the judge has agreed that more than one person might own the copyright, because the duchess got help from palace aides when she was drafting the letter.

Lord Justice Warby delivered a written ruling on Friday following the court hearing in High Court on Tuesday.

The Mail On Sunday will have to run "on a single occasion a statement on the front page", which will direct readers to a further message on page 3.

The statement will read: “The court has given judgment for the Duchess of Sussex on her claim for copyright infringement.

“The court found that Associated Newspapers infringed her copyright by publishing extracts of her handwritten letter to her father in The Mail On Sunday and in MailOnline.

“There will be a trial of the remedies to which the duchess is entitled, at which the court will decide whether the duchess is the exclusive owner of copyright in all parts of the letter, or whether any other person owns a share.”

The website will run the notice with a hyperlink taking readers to the full judgement online.

Acknowledging that the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline had "devoted a very considerable amount of space to the infringing articles, which it continued to publish for over 2 years" the judge added: “In my judgment, these are measured incursions into the defendant’s freedom to decide what it publishes and does not publish, that are justified in pursuit of the legitimate aim I have identified, and proportionate to that aim.

“They will involve little if any additional expense, and certainly nothing approaching the scale of the expense that has been lavished on this litigation.”

Watch: Meghan Markle wins privacy claim against Mail On Sunday

ANL had asked to appeal the ruling, but Lord Justice Warby denied their request, saying they would not receive a different response from the Court of Appeal.

ANL will be able to appeal the denial to the Court of Appeal judges if they wish.

Meghan will be awarded 90% of her legal costs, which are so far estimated to be at least £1.5m according to court documents filed ahead of the 2 March hearing.

ANL was ordered to pay £450,000 within two weeks.

She will also be entitled to an account of profits, which will allow Meghan and her team to see how much was made from the infringement of copyright.

Read more: Meghan Markle awarded £450,000 in legal costs from Mail On Sunday after 'comprehensive win'

The duchess had asked the judge to order that copies of the letter be returned to her, electronic copies be destroyed, and that any notes on it also be deleted or destroyed. Lord Justice Warby said he would not make that order.

In his written judgement, Lord Justice Warby also acknowledged that more of the letter Meghan had written to her father had appeared in a summary judgment he passed down when he ruled in her favour.

He said this had been "unavoidable" and that the duchess's team had not objected to it.

However he said the fact it was added into the judgment does not mean any further reporting on the letter, outside of court reporting, is legal.

LEICESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 28: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Jason Knauf, Communications Secretary to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, accompanies Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge on a visit to Leicester City Football Club's King Power Stadium to pay tribute to those people killed in the helicopter crash of October 27 on November 28, 2018 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Jason Knauf, who now works at the Royal Foundation, contributed ideas to the letter. (Getty Images)

Assessing the potential for more to come in this case, Lord Justice Warby explained: "There remain for resolution by way of a trial the issues - of minor significance in the overall context - as to whether the claimant was the sole author or whether the involvement of Mr Knauf - whatever it proves to have been – made him a co-author; and if so, what consequences that has as on the extent of the infringement of which the claimant may complain, and on the remedies available"

Jason Knauf, now the chief executive officer of The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, was the communications secretary to William, Kate, Harry and Meghan, at the time that Meghan was writing the letter.

Meghan said he helped her with "general ideas" for the letter.

Read more: Royal adviser who complained about Meghan's 'bullying' still working for Kate and William

Owing to his role, it could mean the Crown has some copyright claim in the letter.

However the judge also wrote: "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."

He added: "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."

A future hearing may be set for the previous trial dates set of Autumn 2021.

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