The Court of Appeal has delivered judgment in the joined cases of Cairns v Modi and KC v MGN Ltd ( EWCA Civ 1382). Both appeals concerned the assessment of damages in libel actions, as Kirsten Sjøvoll reported for Inforrm here. The appeal in Cairns was dismissed; the award was found to be proportionate to the gravity of the allegations made against Cairns. In KC, however, the award of damages was reduced to £50,000.
News Group Newspapers was granted summary judgment in Ismail & Anor v News Group Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 3056 (QB) (31 October 2012). The Claimants had sued for defamation following an article in the Sun in 2011, headlined ‘ASYLUM SEEKERS: PAY FOR US TO HAVE A HOL’. Mr Justice Eady found that “there is no allegation contained in the article which would not be capable of being defended on the basis of the UKBA pleaded case either by way of justification or fair comment“. PA Media Lawyer reported here.
In the House of Commons, Fiona MacTaggart MP introduced a debate about Internet-based Media Companies, arguing that “[c]ompanies that use the internet need to have robust policies to protect vulnerable users. They need to take responsibility for the impact of what they do from the start of their operations“. The debate touched on issues of defamation, privacy and freedom of expression.
Twitter has altered its response to DMCA copyright notices, reports GigaOM: “Rather than removing tweets, it is ‘withdrawing’ them instead. This helps show when and why tweets go missing, and also brings new transparency to the DMCA process“. Twitter’s policy can be found here.
Last week we included Joshua Rozenberg’s reflections on his legal and journalistic career at Legal Cheek; this week the site features Mark Stephens, partner at Finers Stephens Innocent (FSI). He says:
“The situation facing the current crop of graduates can seem bleak, with the fall in training contract numbers and the increasing commoditisation of work in some areas of law, but a career as a media lawyer still offers plenty of opportunities for fun – and will likely continue to do so for those who are persistent and lucky enough to get a foot on the ladder.”
JUSTICE, the all-party law reform and human rights charitable organisation, is holding an event 5-8pm on 20 November 2012, which will explore developments in libel, privacy and freedom of expression online, covering the claimant perspective, the defence perspective, challenges for intermediaries and third party publishers, including ISPs and websites. Speakers include: Rosemary Jay, Senior Attorney, Hunton & Williams; Ashley Hurst, Partner, Olswang LLP; Keith Mathieson, Partner, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain; Catrin Evans, One Brick Court; Hugh Tomlinson QC, Matrix and Emma Jelley, Google. More details at this link.
The press’ anticipation of the Leveson report continues, with widespread speculation and comment on a new regulatory system. In a letter to the Guardian, media academics argue that independent regulation “cannot be achieved by a system controlled by the same press interests which have dominated the failed PCC“. In the Independent, Ian Burrell comments that “the scales of power” have shifted between PR and journalism: “Any big story now invariably develops into a credibility contest between the reporter and the communications team of the organisation under fire, with social media becoming a battlefield of damage limitation,” he argues.
Louise Hayman is to step down as Group General Counsel at The Independent after 16 years, PA Media Lawyer reported last week (£). She will continue working three days a week for The Independent and Evening Standard. Janet Youngson is to take up the post of Group General Counsel.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
Please let us know if there is anything to report in this section: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Journalism and regulation
There is one new PCC adjudication to report, the first in just under a month. A woman complained to the PCC that an article published in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald on 6 September 2012 contained excessive detail about a method of suicide in breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complaint was upheld. Full decision at this link and PCC comment at this link.
There have been numerous resolved cases published:
Migrants Resource Centre, on behalf of Mr Salvatore Quero v The Sun, Clauses 1, 2, 05/11/2012; Russ Graham v The Mail on Sunday, Clause 1, 02/11/2012; Ms Eiddwen Jones v Cambrian News, Clauses 3, 5, 01/11/2012; Ms Sandra Rhodes v Fife Free Press, Clause 1, 01/11/2012; Shereef Abdallah v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 01/11/2012; Gordon Miller v Belfast News Letter, Clauses 1, 4, 5, 01/11/2012;
Mr Jonathan Apps & Ms Tina Hallett v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 01/11/2012; Ms Tina Hallett & Mr Jonathan Apps v Western Daily Press, Clause 1, 01/11/2012; Ms Tina Hallett & Mr Jonathan Apps v Bristol Evening Post, Clause 1, 01/11/2012; Mr & Mrs Simon Reed v Shropshire Star, Clause 1, 29/10/2012; Mr & Mrs Simon Reed v Bridgenorth Journal & Shropshire Star, Clause 1, 29/10/2012.
TaboidWatch raises questions over the veracity of looting photos published in the wake of Hurricane Sandy here.
Research & resources
- New at Berkman’s Digital Media Law Project: ‘Twitter, France, and Group Libel’ by Marie-Andrée Weiss
- A new site, ‘The Women’s Room‘, set up in response to low female representation on programmes such as BBC Radio 4′s Today, is creating a media database sortable by region as well as area of expertise, to enable media to find female experts.
- Index on Censorship Policy Note [PDF]: Standing up to threats to digital freedom Can we keep the internet free? [Published ahead of Internet Governance Forum 2012, Azerbaijan, 6-9 November]
- New post at LSE Polis Blog: ‘What it’s like to tell a story without social media and why I will never do so again‘ by Nadja Hahn.
In the Courts
The privacy and breach of confidence trial in Abbey v Evening Standard was heard by Tugendhat J on 30 and 31 October and 1 November 2012. Judgment was reserved.
The appeal in Iqbal v Mansoor was refused on 31 October 2012 by Rix, Etherton and Lewison LJJ, with reasons to be given later.
The libel trial in Mengi v Hermitage began on Wednesday 31 October 2012 before Bean J. The trial was also heard on 1 November 2012 and will resume on 6 November 2012.
As noted above, there were judgments in Cairns v Modi and KC v MGN Ltd ( EWCA Civ 1382) [media summary here, PDF] and Ismail & Anor v News Group Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 3056 (QB) (31 October 2012).
7 November 2012, 7pm, First Wednesday: Trouble at the BBC – Savile, management and public trust. Frontline Club, London.
10 November 2012, 9.30am – 4.30pm, Media Ethics and Emotional Wellbeing. One day Symposium. At the Anna Freud Centre, London NW3.
13 November 2012, 6.30pm, ‘Regulating for Communication’, Baroness Onora O’Neill, Goldsmiths University, London.
19 November 2011, all day, Media and War: challenging the consensus, Goldsmiths University, London.
19 November 2012, The Poetry of Free Expression: Celebrating 40 years of Index on Censorship, Index on Censorship / Poet in the City. King’s Place, London.
19 November 2012, 5:30pm to 7pm. More News is Good News: Democracy & Media in India. Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford.
20 November 2012, 5-8 pm, JUSTICE event: Life and Law Online: Defamation, freedom of expression and the web. Hunton & Williams, 30 St Mary Axe, London EC3A 8EP.
25 November 2012, 2.30pm to 6pm, John Smith Memorial Mace 2012: Media Regulation Debate (Parliament Week), The English Speaking Union. London.
28 November 2012, 6pm ‘CEL Annual Lecture 2012: Media Freedoms & Media Standards’, Baroness Onora O’Neill, London.
29 November 2012, IBC Legal: 6th annual Social Media and the Law, London.
Know of any media law events happening in the autumn/winter? Please let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Greece: Kostas Vaxevanis, an investigative journalist who published the “Lagarde list” containing the names of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts, has been acquitted of breaking data privacy laws, as Index on Censorship notes here; the Telegraph reports here.
Oman: A group of Omanis have come together to draw up an ethical code for internet publications, bloggers, social media users, called the Omani Ethics Code for Electronic Publishing. The Gulf News reports here.
Scotland: The Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee is opposing a provision in the Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill which would make communications between the Monarch, heir to the throne and second in line and public bodies absolutely exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, as STV reports here; and the BBC here.
Next week in the courts
On 5 November 2012 the libel trial of Kim v Tong began before HHJ Moloney QC (sitting as a Judge of the High Court). It is expected to last for 5 to 7 days.
On 6 November 2012 the libel trial of Mengi v Hermitage will resume before Bean J.
On 7 November 2012 there will be an application in the case of Barrett v London Borough of Hackney.
The appeal in the case of Coulson v NGN – concerning the claim for an indemnity – will be heard on 8 or 9 November 2012 by Laws, Sullivan and McCombe LJJ.
Next week in Parliament
Tuesday 6 November, 3pm, House of Lords Communications select committee. Subject: Media Convergence. Witness(es): (at 3.30pm) Professor Martin Cave OBE, Deputy Chair, Competition Commission (though speaking strictly in a personal capacity); and Professor Tommaso Valletti, Professor of Economics, Imperial College, London. Location: Committee Room 2, Palace of Westminster
Friday 9 November, 10am, Legislation – Online Safety Bill [HL] – Second reading – Baroness Howe of Idlicote, Main Chamber, House of Lords.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
- Miller v Associated Newspapers heard 21 to 25 May 2012 (Sharp J)
- Ansari v Knowles, heard 4 and 23 October 2012 (Eady J)
- Abbey v Evening Standard, 30 and 31 October and 1 November 2012 (Tugendhat J)
- Iqbal v Mansoor, 31 October 2012 (Rix, Etherton and Lewison LJJ)
Also on Inforrm last week
- Samsung v Apple: Publication orders – Dan Tench and Jack Gilbert
- Why Leveson won’t opt for the Irish model of press regulation – and what the ‘Irish model’ actually means: Martin Moore
- Journalisted, week ending 28 October 2012, James Bond, GDP and Gary Glitter
- Hacked Off: The FT and the Campaign for No Change
- Case Comment: Cairns v Modi and KC v MGN Ltd, appealing assessments of damages? – Kirsten Sjøvoll
- Hacked Off: Tall Tales and Desperate Arguments
- Another Candle in the Wind for Sir Elton – Stephen Collins
- Ireland: And the dance goes on – Eoin O’Dell
- Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003: Threat or Menace? – Lilian Edwards
This week’s Round Up was compiled for Inforrm by Judith Townend, a freelance journalist and PhD researcher examining legal restraints on the media, who runs the Meeja Law blog. She is @jtownend on Twitter. Please send suggestions, tips and event listings for inclusion in future round ups to firstname.lastname@example.org.