A High Court judge has allowed the Mail on Sunday to reduce the size of a front-page statement telling readers of Meghan Markle’s copyright victory.
Associated Newspapers Limited, the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and Mail Online, has been ordered to print a statement on its front page and a notice inside the paper stating it “infringed her copyright” by publishing parts of a “personal and private” letter to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.
Lord Justice Warby ruled earlier this month that the font size of the statement should be no smaller than the front-page headline “Meghan’s shattering letter to her father” published on 10 February 2019.
The publisher asked instead to run the notice along the bottom of the front page in a sub-banner in a smaller font as the wording required is five times as long as the original headline.
It showed the judge a mock-up of its preferred placement, arguing Meghan’s proposed size “would represent a disproportionate amount of the front page” and have a “vastly disproportionate interference” on its freedom of expression rights.
In a ruling on Monday, the judge agreed the two headlines are “not really comparable” due to their differing lengths and said: “If the statement was printed in the same font as the trailer it would consume a much, much greater proportion of the front page, becoming the main story of the day, or significantly downgrading that news story.
“This is clearly a reasonable point. The purposes for which I have decided to make a Publication Order are not compelling enough to justify an interference of the scale or nature described by the defendant.”
The judge said the statement on the front page mock-up was “sufficiently prominent and eye-catching”.
The judge also agreed to change the requirements for Mail Online, from having the statement visible on its homepage for seven days to posting it on its homepage for 24 hours and then the news page for six days.
The publisher said moving the statement to the news page would still mean it has “continued prominence on an important part of the website, ensuring its ongoing availability to readers for the period stipulated by the Court”.
Meghan had originally asked for the statement to appear on the Mail Online homepage for six months, and her counsel argued against the “demotion” of the statement to the news page, arguing it would become “inconspicuous”.
The duchess, 39, sued ANL over a series of articles which reproduced parts of a “heartfelt” letter sent to Mr Markle, 76, in August 2018.
She claimed the five articles published in February 2019 involved a misuse of her private information, breached her copyright and breached the Data Protection Act.
Last month Meghan was granted summary judgment in relation to her privacy claim, meaning she won that part of the case without having to go to trial, as well as most of her copyright claim.
ANL were initially refused permission to appeal against that decision, but can still apply directly to the Court of Appeal.
In the same ruling on Monday, Lord Justice Warby said ANL had also applied for permission to appeal against his order requiring it to publish the statements.
He refused permission to appeal, but granted a “stay” of the order requiring publication of the statements “only until the matter has been decided by the Court of Appeal”.
Lord Justice Warby said the stay would expire on 6 April to give ANL time to apply directly to the Court of Appeal.
In the summary judgment ruling last month, the judge said publication of Meghan’s letter to her father was “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful”.
He said: “It was, in short, a personal and private letter.
“The majority of what was published was about the claimant’s own behaviour, her feelings of anguish about her father’s behaviour, as she saw it, and the resulting rift between them.
“These are inherently private and personal matters.”
Picture: Chris Jackson/PA Wire