On 9 February 2019, in the hard copy edition of the Mail on Sunday and on MailOnline, the Defendant published large parts of a letter (the Letter) the Claimant had sent to her father in late August 2018, a few months after her wedding to Prince Harry. The Letter had been referred to in an article in the US magazine People on 6 February 2019 and the Claimant’s father, Thomas Markle, had subsequently given a copy of the letter to the Defendant for publication. The Defendant quoted extensively from the Letter in five articles spread across a number of pages.
The Claimant issued proceedings for misuse of her private information, breach of her data protection rights, and infringement of her copyright in the Letter and of a draft of the letter she had created on her phone (the Electronic Draft).
The Defendant denied that the Letter was private or confidential or that the Claimant had any reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of it. It also alleged that any privacy interest the Claimant enjoyed was slight, and outweighed by the need to protect the rights of her father and the public at large. The Defendant relied, among other things, on allegations that the Claimant intended the letter to be publicised, and had disclosed information about it to “best friends” and/or to the authors of a biography of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (not published until 18 months after the Defendant’s articles) entitled “Finding Freedom”. In relation to the copyright claim, the Defendant took issue with the Claimant’s case on originality, on subsistence of copyright, on ownership, and on infringement, alternatively relying on defences of fair dealing and public interest.
The Claimant applied to strike out the defences to the claim for misuse of private information and/or for summary judgment on that claim and on the claim for copyright infringement. The hearing did not concern the data protection claim.