Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, are suing paparazzi photographers for invasion of privacy after unauthorized images of their son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, in the garden of their California home emerged for sale, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles.
“This action arises out of the relentless and quite frankly shocking efforts of the tabloid media to profit from serial intrusions on the privacy of a 14-month-old child in his own home, and the desire and responsibility of any parent to do what is necessary to protect their children from this manufactured feeding frenzy,” the couple said in the complaint.
Harry and Meghan said they initiated legal action after learning a paparazzi agency was attempting to sell photographs of Archie and claiming the images had been taken on a public family outing in Malibu.
“Archie has not been in public, let alone in Malibu, since the family arrived here,” they countered in the complaint. “It is clear from a description of the photographs being shopped that they were taken of activities in the backyard of the residence, unbeknownst to the plaintiff.”
It is illegal in California to take photos of individuals “engaging in a private, personal, or familial activity, through the use of any device, regardless of whether there is a physical trespass.” The law covering invasion of privacy also includes the “capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of a person engaging in a private, personal, or familial activity and the invasion occurs in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person.”
In the lawsuit, the couple described in detail a campaign of paparazzi harassment that they have been subjected to for the past seven months.
The Sussexes said in the lawsuit that they moved to a friend’s home in a gated community in the greater Los Angeles area after the international media discovered the location of their residence in Vancouver, where they were staying when they announced their decision to step back from royal life.
They lived peacefully in California for six weeks, they said, until the Daily Mail revealed their location. On May 7, the tabloid published a “world exclusive” claiming that the Sussexes were living in actor and producer Tyler Perry’s home.
According to their legal complaint, soon after the news was made public, paparazzi began aggressive attempts to photograph them, with some photographers using helicopters and drones several times a day and damaging their fence by cutting holes to “peer through it.”
“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,” the complaint states. The couple said that paparazzi have been waking their neighbors and their son day after day “as early as 5:30 a.m. and as late as 7:00 p.m.”
Since Harry and Meghan don’t know the identity of the paparazzo who took the photos, their lawsuit is filed against “unnamed parties, so-called ‘John Does,'” according to the complaint.
The complaint states: “By this action, the plaintiffs seek the right to take discovery to uncover the identity of those who took the photographs and those who are seeking to profit by selling them. They also seek to put any prospective purchasers of the photos on notice that they were taken illegally and are not what they purport to be.”
In the complaint, Harry and Meghan said that they have done everything to stay out of the limelight except when it’s their work, which they admit is newsworthy.
They said the photos that prompted the lawsuit are not news. “They are not in the public interest. They are harassment,” they said in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit did not provide details of the photographs, but BuzzFeed News has confirmed that the pictures that prompted the legal action are 26 images of Archie and his maternal grandmother, Doria Ragland, dated July 6, that were made available for sale on the website of paparazzi agency X17.
Based on images of the home posted to Tyler Perry’s Instagram account, these 26 blurred images appear to have been taken at the residence.
“Every individual and family member in California is guaranteed by law the right to privacy in their home,” the Sussexes’ attorney Michael Kump said in a statement to BuzzFeed News on Friday.
“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.”