One lawsuit down, only two more to go for Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan in their ongoing legal battles with tabloids and paparazzi: They got a Hollywood photo agency to confess and apologize for taking alleged drone photos of baby Archie in their Los Angeles backyard.
And the agency, X17, one of the major celebrity photo agencies, promised to destroy the pictures and to never do it again, and paid some of the couple’s legal fees to boot.
“We apologize to The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their son for the distress
we have caused. We were wrong to offer these photographs and commit to not
doing so again,” according to a statement from X17.
The statement was provided Friday to USA TODAY by Harry and Meghan through their public relations agency, Sunshine Sachs, after the lawsuit they filed in Los Angeles this summer was resolved.
Their lawyer, Michael Kump, also issued a statement, labeling the backyard photos of 1-year-old Archie with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, allegedly by drone cameras, this summer as “intrusive and illegal.”
“Today, the agency responsible for those photos – X17 – apologized and agreed
to a permanent injunction and reimbursement of a portion of legal fees,” Kump’s statement said. “This is a successful outcome. All families have a right, protected by law, to feel safe and secure at home.”
Soon after arriving in Southern California following their departure from their royal life in Britain, Harry and Meghan filed a lawsuit against unnamed paparazzi photographers they accused of spying on them and Archie with drone cameras in their borrowed Los Angeles home.
Photographers, professional or not, are free under the First Amendment to take pictures of celebrities in public spaces as long as they are not endangering the targets or the general public.
But under recently-passed California law, it is illegal to peer into someone’s private home through use of telephoto or zoom lenses, drone cameras or other means considered an invasion of privacy under the law.
Kump, who has represented other celebrities in other media battles, has argued that all Californians are guaranteed by that law the right to privacy in their homes. “No drones, helicopters or telephoto lenses can take away that right,” he told Vanity Fair in July.
In July, Harry and Meghan learned that “someone was shopping photographs of Archie” that had been taken on the private grounds of their home in the hills overlooking Beverly Hills, according to the legal agreement ending their lawsuit.
“Discovery taken in this (lawsuit) has revealed that the photographs at issue were taken by X17 in July 2020, and depict Archie with his maternal grandmother on the private garden grounds of plaintiffs’ private residence and then offered for sale to buyers in
the United States and Europe.”
Under the agreement, X17 is to turn over all originals and all physical and digital copies of the pictures, identify all recipients and publishers of the pictures, and instruct those recipients to “delete the (pictures) from their archives or databases and to never to license, distribute or publish” them.
It’s a clear legal victory for Harry and Meghan, who have said they gave up their jobs as senior working royals in Britain to seek more independence and, in part, more privacy from the scrutiny of the British tabloid media they have accused of intrusions on their privacy.
But Los Angeles is the capital of the paparazzi, whose zeal has long aggravated many of their celebrity targets. Recently, paparazzi have added camera-mounted drones to the tools of their trade.
Back in Britain, Harry is one of many celebrities suing two tabloids in a pending lawsuit for alleged past hacking of cellphone voicemail.
Meghan is suing the tabloid Mail on Sunday for copyright infringement and invasion of privacy for publishing a private letter she wrote to her estranged father after her May 2018 wedding to Harry at Windsor Castle. That lawsuit, in which she has suffered some recent legal setbacks, is supposed to go to trial in January.
Harry, 36, and Meghan, 39, moved to Los Angeles, Meghan’s hometown, in March just as the coronavirus pandemic put everyone in Southern California in lockdown. In July, after they filed their lawsuit, they moved to Montecito in Santa Barbara County where they bought a sprawling luxury estate.
So far, they have not reported any problems with paparazzi or their drone cameras in Santa Barbara.
But according to the Daily Mail, the paparazzi were there Wednesday night in Santa Barbara when Harry and Meghan went out to dinner at a steakhouse.
The pictures of them on the street, dressed casually and wearing face masks, show them entering and leaving the restaurant. They were grainy but they were legal.
Meanwhile, Harry and Meghan continued their schedule of virtual engagements from Montecito, recording an episode of the podcast Teenager Therapy to mark World Mental Health Day.
The podcast, created and hosted by five seniors at Loara High School in Anaheim, California, will be released across podcast platforms on Saturday, according to its Instagram page and Twitter account. The 35-minute conversation with the couple will focus on removing the stigma around mental health, an important cause to Harry especially.
The conversation was recorded earlier this week at a shooting location in Montecito compliant with COVID-19 protections, and masks were worn the entire time, according to the couple’s public relations agency.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Meghan Markle, Prince Harry win fight over Archie paparazzi pictures