The Times reports that Prince Charles has begun legal action after the Mail on Sunday published excerpts from a journal he kept during the British handover of Hong Kong to China. The Prince is alleged to have made uncomplimentary comments about the Chinese in his 3,000 word work entitled The Handover of Hong Kong — or the Great Chinese Takeaway. He regularly writes up his thoughts on public affairs for other members of the Royal Family, senior politicians and close friends
Associated Newspapers, the Mail on Sunday’s parent company argues that it has not committed either copyright infringement or breach of confidence since the book was widely distributed and was meant for eventual publication. Additionally, the paper claims:
“The story raised important questions about Britain’s relations with China and the Prince’s influence on British political thinking. We believe the public has a right to know the considered views of the heir to the throne on matters of great public interest.”The IPKat reckons that this is a tricky situation. While there may be a public interest defence to breach of confidence, any such defence under copyright is far narrower, if it exists at all. Moreover, he doubts that an intention to eventually publish a work stops it from being confidential before it was published. If this was the case, publishing houses would not be able to control the launch date of their works, which would be disastrous for planning.