The US branch of the global entertainment and paparazzi agency, Splash News & Picture, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to a financial inability to pay for their legal battle over free speech with the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.
"Splash’s financial problems stem from three sources," Splash president Emma Curzon said in a bankruptcy declaration, cited by The Hollywood Reporter. "As a consequence of the global pandemic the availability of celebrity images has declined and budgets within media companies have been cut to reflect wider macro-economic challenges. This situation has been exacerbated by two ongoing litigation cases and the costs of defending these cases."
Markle's case is among the two, with the Duchess battling Splash over photos taken during a "private family outing" in one a Canada park. The legal action involving "free speech related issues under United Kingdom law", according to the agency, turned out to be too expensive for the infotainment company to continue.
The second case has the media group defending itself after former account manager Esmeralda Servin said she was repeatedly subjected to sexist remarks during her employment with the agency.
According to a company statement cited by Newsweek, Splash will "continue to trade as normal and no jobs will be affected by this announcement", while it consider's Markle's legal action to protect her children and her family, while defending her privacy, as an attempt to "destroy the business".
"Having tried unsuccessfully to reach a settlement with the Duchess, it is the view of the Directors that this places an unacceptable risk to the survival of the business, and have regrettably taken the business into Chapter 11 to protect our employees from an action which we believe is designed to destroy the business", the statement said.
Among other celebrities who have defended themselves in copyright cases against Splash are Liam Hemsworth, Nicki Minaj and Jennifer Lopez, who were pursued by the agency for posting images of themselves in their social media.
It is also not the first time the Sussexes have sought to use legal means to protect themselves from Splash, as in 2019 they were granted "substantial pay" from the paparazzi agency after photos taken from a helicopter hovering over Harry and Meghan's Oxfordshire home were sold to news outlets.