By KATIE KINDELAN and ZOE MAGEE, ABC News
(LOS ANGELES) — Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have taken legal action again over privacy claims.
In a complaint filed Thursday in California, where Harry and Meghan moved earlier this year, the couple alleges that drones were used to take photographs of their 14-month-old son, Archie.
The complaint, filed against unnamed photographers, details the media attention Harry and Meghan say they have been subjected to since moving to a Los Angeles home in a gated community, “at the generosity of a friend,” rumored to be Hollywood mogul Tyler Perry.
“Some paparazzi and media outlets have flown drones a mere 20 feet above the house, as often as three times a day, to obtain photographs of the couple and their young son in their private residence (some of which have been sold and published),” Harry and Meghan allege in the complaint. “Others have flown helicopters above the backyard of the residence, as early as 5:30 a.m. and as late as 7:00 p.m., waking neighbors and their son, day after day. And still others have even cut holes in the security fence itself to peer through it.”
Harry and Meghan say they learned recently that photographs of Archie are being shopped around by people who claim they were taken on a public outing in Malibu. According to the couple, the photos were taken in the backyard of their home without their knowledge, an alleged action that the complaint describes as crossing “a red line for any parent.”
“The Plaintiffs will not allow the tabloids to break the law, especially when it involves intimidation, harassment and the addition of a very real security threat on top of what already exists,” the complaint reads. “It is one thing for parents to share photos of their children, on occasion, with supporters — particularly when doing so has the salutary effect of reducing the bounty on their children’s heads. It is something else entirely to cede all control to photographers driven by commercial incentive alone. Simply put, it is the Plaintiffs’ choice when and how to share photos of their son.”
The last image shared of Archie by Harry and Meghan was in May to mark his first birthday. The couple shared a video of Meghan reading with Archie through the #SAVEWITHSTORIES initiative that raises money for kids in the U.S. and U.K. without access to meals at school during the COVID-19 crisis.
Harry and Meghan allege in the complaint that their Los Angeles address was made public by a U.K. tabloid, which they say quickly led to paparazzi setting up “hundreds of yards away on the ridgetop overlooking the residence, hoping to capture photographs of the family.”
“Every individual and family member in California is guaranteed by law the right to privacy in their home. No drones, helicopters or telephoto lenses can take away that right,” Harry and Meghan’s attorney, Michael Kump, told ABC News in a statement. “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are filing this lawsuit to protect their young son’s right to privacy in their home without intrusion by photographers, and to uncover and stop those who seek to profit from these illegal actions.”
The Sussexes are currently embroiled in a copyright infringement lawsuit against Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Mail on Sunday — the Sunday edition of the Daily Mail.
The lawsuit, announced publicly last October, focuses on the Mail on Sunday’s publication of a letter written by Meghan to her now-estranged father Thomas Markle.
Prince Harry also took legal action against some U.K. tabloids last year with regard to “the illegal interception of voicemail messages.”
The prince also last year received an apology and won a court victory against paparazzi who took photos of his and Meghan’s country home in Oxfordshire.
In the new complaint, the Sussexes say they do not know who allegedly took the photographs of Archie nor who is allegedly trying to sell the photos. They say through the complaint they are trying to “uncover the identity” of those people, gain possession of any photos “unlawfully taken of their son” and prohibit the people who allegedly took and tried to sell the photos “from further unlawful conduct and harassment of the Plaintiffs and their son, along with any and all other appropriate relief.”
“The Plaintiffs have done everything in their power to stay out of the limelight except in connection with their work, which they freely admit is newsworthy,” the complaint reads. “But the photos at issue are not news. They are not in the public interest. They are harassment.”
Harry and Meghan stepped down in April from their roles as senior members of Britain’s royal family. They no longer take public funding and have their own communications team after closing their Buckingham Palace office.
The Sussexes announced earlier this year that they will no longer participate with the British tabloids — including The Sun, The Mirror, The Daily Mail and The Express — unless it is through a lawyer.
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