The Duchess of Sussex has moved to start proceedings in The High Court against The Mail on Sunday, over a letter she wrote to her father, Thomas Markle. The lawsuit is for misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of GDPR regulations under the Data Protection Act 2018.
For many of us, this is just legal jargon, and all we really understand from the statement is that Meghan believes they broke the law publishing her letter. Here is how she has brought her case, and why they matter.
Misuse of information:
Misuse of private information is a common law tort in the English courts, first recognised in Campbell v MGN Ltd when Naomi Campbell was photographed leaving a rehabilitation clinic, which were subsequently published by The Mirror. The misuse of private information does not require an initial confidential relationship between the parties, but it will need to be assessed whether the disclosure of information would give substantial offence to an ordinary individual.
The Duchess will be seeking for the court to determine that publishing the letter was a misuse of her private correspondence with her father and it caused her ‘substantial offence’.
Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, infringement of copyright is when someone else copies, publishes or performs work without the permission of the author. To infringe the copyright, the publisher need not copy the whole work; the work can still be infringed if a substantial or significant part of the work is published. The author retains ownership of the copyright even after the physical correspondence is in the possession of another individual.
The Duchess of Sussex will be seeking for the court to determine that there was an infringement of her copyright as the original author of the letter, even if the Daily Mail only published parts of the letter. The Duchess still owns the copyright of the letter after she gave the letter to her father.
Data protection and breach of GDPR:
In terms of the letter, The Data Protection Act 2018 describes a breach of GDPR as a breach of security leading to the accidental or unlawful unauthorised disclosure of, or access to, personal data. Meghan will be seeking for the court to rule that is was unlawful for her letter to have been published without her authorisation.
Proceedings have started in The High Court. The High Court, together with the Court of Appeal and The Crown Court, are the Senior Courts of England and Wales. The High Court deals with all high-value and high importance cases and is based in Westminster.
More when we have it.