The American actress, the English duchess, and the privacy litigation


This article was authored by Withers’ Amber Melville-Brown and published in NYSBA Entertainment, Art and Sports Law Journal | Spring 2020 | Vol. 31 | No.2 edition. Please find an introduction of the article and link to full text below.

Brexit, Megzit, celebrity and privacy…

In a move more resonant with players of the TV show “Survival” than with members of the British royal family, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex—Prince Harry and Meghan Markle blindsided senior royals with a unilateral announcement that they intended to “carve out a progressive new role” within the royal family. Since then, they have decamped to Canada, have re-decamped to California, and have issued a statement announcing that they will not be engaging with the British tabloid press. But if all this was intended to keep out of the limelight and secure their privacy, or change their relationship with the media for the better, thus far it has not worked. While Harry and Meghan appear to have come out of the deal talks with the Royal Family with less than they had hoped for in terms of professional roles and responsibilities, they have equally left Britain with less than they anticipated in terms of privacy protection and their much-desired “peaceful life.”

In this fast-moving story developments have inevitably ensued in the short time frame between “file” and “publish” of this article; indeed, as the article went to press developments came thick and fast.

There was the couple’s surprise move from the calm of Canada where the press is less aggressive, and the much-sought after privacy prize might have been more attainable, for the glitz of a star-studded Los Angeles, prime hunting ground for celebrities.

Then, just when an rapprochement seemed possible, Harry’s expected return to Blighty in April 2020 to attend the London Marathon, as patron of the London Marathon Charitable Trust, was halted by the lockdown brought about by the 2020 COVID-19 coronavirus.

The couple’s new social media sites also suffered a blow, as the new relationship carved out in negotiations between the royal family and the couple saw them having to abandon use of the “Sussex Royal” brand with which they heralded the new them.

And in the kind of birthday present Her Majesty The Queen may have preferred not to have received, two days before her celebrations she would have been able to read the couple’s very public statement that they would no longer be communicating with the British tabloid press. Throwing down the gauntlet of “no corroboration and zero engagement” to the tabloids was hardly going to foster goodwill with this ferocious nemesis, nor garner the privacy that they seek.

And in the latest chapters of this bestselling book, the couple have contributed to a publication of their own story in a book due to hit the shelves in August – which hardly smacks of privacy-seeking at all – and have signed with the agency which represents Oprah Winfrey and Barak Obama, to arrange speaking engagements.

Duke and Duchess; Prince and actress; public and private; celebrity and privacy; England and America. This article addresses some of the differences between the laws on both sides of the Atlantic which swirl in the privacy sphere, through the lens of one of the worlds most celebrated couples seeking – and speaking about – their desire for privacy.

Read the full article here.