What Does Meghan Markle’s Win Against The Tabloids Mean?
Meghan Markle just won a huge case against a British tabloid that misused her privacy when they published a personal letter she wrote to her father.
The outcome is a significant moment, especially for Meghan who’s been the victim of constantly bullying by the British tabloids.
So, what did the court actually rule? And will it stop the media from using leaked documents in the future?
The Meghan Markle Ruling
Back in 2019 Meghan Markle sued a UK paper called The Mail on Sunday after it published this article containing a letter that she’d written to her estranged father.
And now a High Court has ruled that the paper was guilty of misuse of private information and copyright infringement against the Duchess of Sussex.
If you haven’t read the letter that the case hinged on, it is deeply personal. And despite the Mail’s defense team labelling it a publicity stunt, Meghan has always maintained it was never meant to be read publicly.
Not Just A Win For Meghan And Harry
In a public statement Meghan said the court win was for everyone, but for her it’s a particularly significant moment.
The Duchess has had to deal with a lot of shit from the British media ever since she entered the royal spotlight. Unsafe media attention was one of the main reasons she and Prince Harry decided to take a step back from their royal duties.
This certainty isn’t the first time a royal or celebrity has taken legal action against the press.
Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, sued and won a court case against a French tabloid that published topless photos of her.
But for Meghan to win this case on the grounds of misuse of private information is kind of a rare victory for celebrity privacy.
A Rare Victory For Meghan Markle And Celebrity Privacy
That’s because it’s a relatively new law in the UK (we don’t even have it here in Australia) and it differs from the more commonly cited laws that revolve around a breach of confidence.
This misuse of private information law more concerns information that is personal and private in its very nature, like a hospital record or in this case a letter, which shouldn’t be misused without consent.
Michael Bradley (Managing Partner, Marquee Lawyers): “There’s an assumption – particularly within the media – that people who rely on the media and cultivate relationships with the media for their own commercial purposes or publicity purposes, like the royal family, have a lower expectation of privacy than an ordinary private citizen. Even people as public and prominent as members of the royal family still have a private life, which they’re entitled to expect to be able to protect.”
People are now applauding the Duchess for standing up to the media bullies, who are now being called out for their dehumanising practices.
Markle wrote in a statement after the ruling that “for these outlets it’s a game”, but that for her and so many others, “it’s real life”.
What Does The Success Of ‘Misuse Of Private Information’ Mean For The Media?
But despite the court’s ruling, it’s highly unlikely that the media will stop hounding celebrities the way they do.
MB: “It definitely won’t stop the media … because whatever this court case costs the publisher is a small fraction of the money they made from it. Unless [these unethical practices are] actually criminalised and the individuals are facing jail time or something serious like that, they’re not going to be slowed down whatsoever.”
Legal experts are divided over the win.
Some argue that the judgement gives an unfair advantage to high profile people, who have the money and time to be able to follow through with these kinds of High Court cases.
Others worry it could potentially disrupt the journalistic mandate to publish what’s in the public’s best interest.
But when the line between serving the public and selling somebody’s privacy becomes critically blurred, are we really serving the public at all?
The High Court ruling is a big win for Meghan, and for other celebrities who could find themselves subject to painful media bullying in the future.
The ruling might also carry enough weight to bolster an argument for the introduction of a similar legal distinction on matters of privacy here in Australia.