11:11am PT by Eriq Gardner
UK Judge Orders Tabloid to Share Meghan Markle's Legal Win on Front Page
In February, Meghan Markle experienced a huge legal win against the British tabloid, The Mail on Sunday, for publishing the personal letter that the former Suits star turned Duchess of Sussex had written to her father. A U.K. court granted summary judgment on her contention that the publication was a breach of privacy and copyright, although there was a minor yet interesting issue still left to be tried, related to whether a public relations official connected to the Crown was involved in the drafting of the letter and thus shared in the copyright.
On Friday came an unusual follow-up ruling (read here) from Justice Warby, a fairly meta one that goes into the coverage of last month's ruling by The Mail and ultimately delivers the decision that the newspaper should feature word of Markle's win on its front page.
Warby writes that while the paper's attorney may say the summary judgment ruling was “one of the most widely read public judgments of recent years,” the judiciary website registered just 4,652 overall views with a tweet sharing the link retweeted just 121 times. "It goes without saying that these figures pale by comparison with the readership of the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, and other media outlets that covered the story," he goes with saying.
The judge is also disturbed by how "there has been just one short article on an inside page of" the Mail, leading to the observation, "There is something to be said for [Markle's] argument that the coverage of the case in MailOnline has not been very informative about the issues in the case and how they were resolved. The coverage could be read as suggesting that judgment in the claimant’s favour on privacy 'WITHOUT a trial' (sic) is a startling and unusual one, and that the entire question of whether the claimant owned any copyright was to go to trial."
Plus, there's the fact that The Mail kept its original story about the letter to the father up. "In the absence of any explanation, I am tempted to infer that it is a form of defiance," says the judge.
And so, Warby orders that the newspaper publish on its front page, in font size no smaller than the headline it originally used (“Meghan’s shattering letter to her father”), word that judgment was given to the Duchess.
This remedy might not pass constitutional muster in the United States, and Warby spends some time analyzing whether it is proper under European law, and he ultimately concludes "It is not, in itself, an objectionable or disproportionate interference with free speech to require a newspaper that has made a wrongful publication to publish a supplementary statement, be it a correction or a reference to the court’s judgment."