In February, Justice Warby ruled in the Duchess of Sussex’s favor in her summary judgement against ANL, the publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. The lawsuit was mostly about the Mail’s publication of a letter Meghan sent to her toxic father, but the Mail’s lawyers managed to draw out the drama for two and a half years as they spun wilder and wilder conspiracies and used the court case to smear Meghan even more. Soon after the judge ruled in Meghan’s favor, he also ruled that the Mail would have to cough up nearly $2 million in legal fees and then on top of that, the Mail would have to pay damages. There was one outstanding piece of business before the court: who truly owned the copyright on the letter? The Mail claimed that the letter was basically written by a committee of Jason Knauf and various senior palace aides. So that was the business at hand yesterday, determining who owned the copyright. And once again, Meghan won.
Meghan Markle just won the latest round of her two-and-a-half-year legal battle against Associated Newspapers — publisher of the Mail on Sunday and Mail Online — over the publication of a handwritten letter to her dad, Thomas Markle, 76. A remote hearing at the High Court in London on Wednesday ruled that Meghan, 39, owns the sole copyright to the letter, which she sent to her dad in August 2018, just three months after her wedding to Prince Harry.
Lawyers for Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) had previously claimed that former Kensington Palace communications chief Jason Knauf owned part of the copyright as he had seen an early version of the letter and played a role in its drafting. That assertion was dropped on Wednesday, however, after it was revealed that Knauf had “emphatically” denied co-writing the letter. Lawyers representing “the Keeper of the Privy Purse, acting on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen” also told Meghan’s lawyers they “did not consider the Crown to be the copyright owner.”
“Mr. Knauf did not draft, and has never claimed to have drafted, any parts of the electronic draft or the letter,” Meghan’s lawyers stated in official court documents released Wednesday, adding that the Duchess of Sussex wrote the letter using the Notes application on her iPhone “around the first week of August 2018.”
It did, however, reveal that Meghan had shared the draft with Prince Harry and Jason Knauf “for support, as this was a deeply painful process that they had lived through with her and because Mr Knauf was responsible for keeping the senior members of the royal household apprised of any public-facing issues.” While Knauf provided “general ideas” suggesting that the Duchess include a mention of her father’s ill health in the letter, the correspondence “was the Duchess’s letter alone,” the documents add.
Meghan first sued Associated Newspapers in September 2019 for publishing extracts of the “private and confidential” letter to her dad in five articles published both in print and online in February 2019. In March, Warby also awarded Meghan $625,000 in legal costs over her privacy and copyright infringement claim against Associated Newspapers, as part of a wider judgment ordering the newspaper group to pay 90% of Meghan’s estimated $1.88 million legal expenses for the case.
On Thursday, Warby added to this by ordering the Mail to pay the remaining 10% of Meghan’s court costs.
Associated Newspapers lawyer Andrew Caldecott did not oppose Wednesday’s ruling. In a written submission he added that it was “a matter of regret” to the newspaper publisher that Knauf had not previously clarified his role in the drafting of the letter. Caldecott added that once the publisher had become aware of Knauf’s declaration their legal team had “swiftly recognized the impact of the information” and indicated that it would not oppose a judgment.
Some day, Netflix will have to do some kind of six-part docu-series on what actually happened in the summer of 2018, with Thomas Markle blanketing British talk shows and British media, and then the letter, and then months of lies, and then a protracted court case starting in 2019. I would be willing to bet that Jason Knauf is a certified moron who thought he could pull something shady with Thomas Markle, and then thought he could leak to the Mail and help their legal defense, all to screw over Meghan. Anyway, Meghan stays winning. When is the Mail going to give her the front-page all-caps apology for all of their bullsh-t? The judge ordered it.
Photos courtesy of WENN.