The biggest news of the week is that the Defamation Bill received Royal Assent and is now the Defamation Act 2013, three years after the publication of Lord Lester’s original Defamation Bill. Inforrm reported the news and context here; a commentary by Jo Glanville, director of English PEN, can be found here. Robert Sharp, also of English PEN, has dissected some of the detail here and here. A report in Belfast Telegraph reports that Index on Censorship is questioning Stormont’s decision to block the Act from becoming law in Northern Ireland.
On Thursday, a group of UK newspaper publishers, supported by the Newspaper Society, launched their own version of a Royal Charter [PDF], claiming that the Government’s draft, which received cross-party support in March, did not provide adequate independence from politicans and contained “unworkable” recommendations. Claire Enders, founder of Enders Analysis has analysed what are, in her view, the key differences between the Government and the industry drafts here. Inforrm’s report can be found here.
In Scotland, all parties in the Scottish Parliament have agreed to a debate “on proposals for the Scottish Government to support a Royal Charter subject to it properly reflecting Scots law and devolved responsibilities“. Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop had earlier given evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee on the regulation of the press and presented draft amendments to the Royal Charter “that would properly define the roles of the UK and Scottish Parliaments and ensure the Charter respected the role of the Scottish Parliament and the devolution of press regulation“.
The Government has announced a consultation on Ofcom reform, as Dr Damian Tambini discusses on the LSE Media Policy Project blog: “Where does this consultation leave the promised Communications White Paper?” he asks.
Keir Starmer is to step down as Director of Public Prosecutions at the end of his five-year term of office in October, the CPS has confirmed.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
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Journalism and regulation
At last week’s IBC annual Defamation and Privacy conference, PCC chair Lord Hunt reminded attendees that the The Editors’ Code is currently under review and a public consultation is open. Suggestions can be made here.
There is one new PCC adjudication to report, Mrs Rosemary MacLeod v The Scottish Sun, a clause 5 (Intrusion into grief and shock) complaint. The complaint was upheld. The complaint concerned an article headlined “Tears for Hoy uncle at funeral in Edinburgh”, published in The Scottish Sun, about the funeral of the uncle of Olympic cyclist Sir Chris Hoy. The complainant, Rosemary MacLeod, on behalf of the family, said that the publication of the photograph of Mr Hoy’s widow had grossly intruded into her privacy. A freelance reporter and photographer had been sent by the newspaper to cover the service. The Commission found that the presence of a well-known individual at the service “did not in any way lessen the newspaper’s obligation under Clause 5″:
“The publication of images of Mr Hoy’s widow being comforted after the service represented a clear failure to handle publication sensitively, which was compounded by the publication of details of the eulogy. While it appeared that the reporter had acted discreetly while at the service, his unsolicited presence at a private event represented a further intrusion into the family’s grief. The Commission welcomed the newspaper’s efforts to resolve the matter, but upheld the complaint”.
There were also several resolved complaints, including:
Mr Charles Tubbs v Daily Mail, No clause specified, 29/04/2013; Dr John Little v The Daily Telegraph, Clause 1, 26/04/2013; Mrs Deborah Farrell v That’s Life, Clause 1, 25/04/2012; Jessica Westwood v The Mail on Sunday, Clause 1, 25/04/2013; Neil Turner v The Daily Telegraph, Clause 1, 25/04/2013; Ms Judy Gibbons v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 25/04/2013; A woman v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 25/04/2013; Mrs Sadie Collis v The Sun, Clause 1, 3, 25/04/2013; Mrs Sadie Collis Chichester Observer, Clauses 1, 3, 25/04/2013; Mrs Sadie Collis v The Argus (Brighton), Clauses 1, 3, 25/04/2013; Ms Sandi Toksvig v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 25/04/2013.
Research & resources
- LSE Media Policy Project: On-going Consultations and Studies page
- Cristina Carmody Tilley, Northwestern University School of Law, ‘I Am a Camera: Scrutinizing the Assumption that Cameras in the Courtroom Furnish Public Value by Operating as a Proxy for the Public’, April 4, 2013 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Forthcoming [SSRN]
- Daxton R. “Chip” Stewart, ‘When Retweets Attack: Are Twitter Users Liable for Republishing the Defamatory Tweets of Others?‘, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly April 11, 2013 [Abstract]
- Digital Media Law Project, Berkman Center: We Have a New Name
- Professor Patrick Keyzer (lead author), Jane Johnston, Sharon Rodrick, Anne Wallace, Geoff Holland and Mark Pearson. ‘Juries and Social Media’ – a report commissioned by the Victorian Attorney-General, published by the Standing Council on Law and Justice [PDF / Blog post]
Media Regulators in Europe: a Cross-Country Comparative Analysis, CECS – Communication and Society Research Centre, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal [Report]
- James Grimmelmann, New York Law School; Georgetown University Law Center, ‘Speech Engines’, Minnesota Law Review, Forthcoming [SSRN]
In the Courts
On 22 April 2013, Tugendhat J heard an application in the case of Ontulmus & ors v Collett.
On the same day HHJ Moloney QC heard an application and the first day of the trial in Kim v Park. The judge struck out a defence to a libel claim under section 1 of the Defamation Act 1996 “because the defendants not only failed to file any witness statement evidence but had said they had no intention of doing so,” reported PA Media Lawyer (Subscription required). The hearing of the application will be resumed on 17 May 2013.
On 24 April 2013 there was a trial in the case of Frost v Kemp, before HHJ Moloney QC. The case concerned a dispute between neighbours and a forged email. There were news stories about the case in the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.
On 25 April 2013, there was a Pre Trial Review in the case of Small v Turner. A 7 day trial is due to begin on 7 May 2013.
On the same day Tugendhat J handed down judgment in the case of McAlpine v Bercow  EWHC 981 (QB).
Two men who were in breach of the injunction preventing the identification of James Bulger’s killers, John Venables and Robert Thompson, and therefore in contempt of court, have been given a suspended sentence of nine months imprisonment, as reported by ITV News here and the BBC here.
1 May 2013, The Fifth Northumbria Information Rights Conference: Changing Notions of Privacy, Northern Design Centre, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.
2 May 2013, Reporting Mental Health and Suicide by the Media, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.
3 May 2013, 11am-4.30pm, Obstacles to Free Speech and Safety of Journalists, City University London.
9 May 2013, Valuing the BBC: A half day seminar, City University London.
9 May 2013, The Theft of Creative Content: Copyright in Crisis – Department of Law and PRS for Music public debate, LSE, London.
16-17 May 2013, Legal frontiers in digital media: the sixth annual conference on emerging legal issues surrounding digital publishing and content distribution, Stanford University, Paul Brest Hall, Stanford, California.
23-24 May 2013, “Social Media, Regulation and Freedom of Expression: A comparative perspective”. A workshop organized by HKBU and Tsinghua University, Communication & Visual Arts Building, Hong Kong Baptist University. Hong Kong.
31 May 2013, Rethinking Media and Journalism Practice, University of Winchester
10 June 2013, Caught in the web: how free are we online?, Kings Place, London.
24-25 June 2013, The Constitution of the Public Sphere: the post-Leveson Landscape (W G Hart Legal Workshop 2013), Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London.
26-27 September 2013, Jersey Law Via the Internet 2013, Radisson Blu Hotel, Jersey.
Know of any media law events happening in the next few months? Please let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
France: The head of the publisher of France’s Closer magazine and a photographer are under formal investigation for invasion of privacy, following the publication of pictures showing the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing, according to the BBC.
Germany: A German privacy watchdog, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ULD), has been unsuccessful in its attempt to prevent Facebook requiring users to register on the site with their real names. As reported by the Inquirer, a state appeals court “upheld the proposition that German privacy laws don’t apply to Facebook, and ruled that the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ULD) for the German state of Schleswig-Holstein has to accept that“.
Iceland: The Supreme Court in Iceland “has upheld a district court’s ruling that MasterCard’s local partner, Valitor, illegally ended its contract with Wikileaks“, reports the BBC.
Next week in the courts
The libel trial in the case of Hunt v Times Newspapers begins on 29 April 2013 before Simon J. It is listed for 3 weeks.
On the same day Tugendhat J will hear the trial in the case of Chapper v Deutsch
On 29 and 30 April 2013, the Court of Appeal (Master of the Rolls, Tomlinson and Ryder LJJ) will hear the appeal in the case of AAA v Associated Newspapers (an appeal from the decision of Nicola Davies J,  EWHC 2224 (QB)).
On 2 May 2013 there will be an application in the case of Euromoney plc v Aviation News Ltd. There was a news item about the case in the Press Gazette.
Next week in Parliament
Parliament has been prorogued. The House of Commons will next sit on Wednesday 8 May 2013.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Cruddas v Calvert & ors, heard 18 April 2013 (Nicol J)
Also on Inforrm last week
- News: Court of Human Rights Dismisses Animal Defenders “Political Advertising” Article 10 application
- Leveson: an Ethical Charter for the Press: how does it measure up to regulation overseas? – Lara Fielden
- A surprise ruling? Strasbourg upholds the ban on paid political ads on TV and Radio – Jacob Rowbottom
- Reputation and Baroness Thatcher, Deceased – Dominic Crossley and Aimee Stevens
- Responsibility in Public Office? – Cathy James
- Here come the (thought) police – David Banks
- Leveson: Press proposes its own “Royal Charter”
- News: Defamation Act 2013 receives Royal Assent
- Case Law: ZAM v CFW, Court awards anonymity for victim of libellous “paedophile” allegations – Rosalind English
- Three corporations clinging to the PCC wreckage – Brian Cathcart
- Case law, Northern Ireland, HL (a minor) v Facebook, How can the courts manage the Facebook phenomenon? – Rosalind English
- Does copyright control browsing? Meltwater in the UK Supreme Court – Graham Smith
- Libel News: Care companies bring action against Rochdale Council Leader
- Media Reform Coalition: This press barons’ charter is neither independent nor fair
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.