The most significant law and media news of the week was the announcement on Friday that the Independent newspapers are to close in March. The Independent is to be a digital-only product, whilst the i has been sold to regional publisher Johnston Press for £24 million.
Following the announcement of the closure, the National Union of Journalists accused the Lebedevs of ‘contempt’ for journalists as they admitted there will be ‘some redundancies’ whilst simultaneously heralding the move to digital as a ‘historic transition,’ something which the NUJ described as ‘an added indignity’.
Brian Cathcart in the Guardian, hailed the closure as ‘the death of a medium, not of a message.’ He describes the inevitability of a move to digital in other papers, and says that we should concentrate of ensuring that good journalism can survive in the new environment, rather than mourning the death of print newspapers.
Roy Greenslade, also in the Guardian, described the closure as ‘another first for the Independent.’ Like Brian Cathcart he not only says that digital is the future, but points out that this move has been coming for a long time, observing that a number of papers in the US have already made the move to digital only. He also says that print is not dead yet, and that print continues to attract more advertising revenue than digital.
This week shadow culture secretary Maria Eagle and shadow home secretary Andy Burnham met with victims of press abuse and campaigners to put pressure on the government to commence Leveson part two, which Andy Burnham described as ‘non-negotiable.’ They met with Alistair Morgan, the brother of murdered private investigator Daniel Morgan, who stressed the need for an inquiry to examine links between the News of the World and his brother’s murder. He said that he only accepted the offer of an independent panel to investigate the murder because he had believed Leveson part two would go ahead, saying “If there are issues it can’t get to, I saw Leveson two as a possible way of dealing with the subjects the panel can’t deal with.” They also met with Jacqui Hames, phone hacking victim and Hacked Off board member, who said the media was once again too “cosy and comfortable” with the authorities and links with the police had to be examined further. “Leveson two will shine a light at this relationship,” she said.
However, as the Press Gazette and Politics Home reported, the Daily Mail quoted a “senior government source” as saying the inquiry would never take place. They quoted the source as asking “what would be the point of having another inquiry? Things have moved on since the first one, and we see no point revisiting it”.
Maria Eagle also joined the resounding chorus of voices criticising Cameron for breaking his Leveson promise. She said Cameron is
“reneging on this promise as though he had never agreed to it in the first place … By pretending it is business as usual and backtracking on Leveson, the Tories are deliberately turning a blind eye to serious allegations of high-level corruption and collusion between the press, the police, politicians and the judiciary”.
In other news, a Croydon Advertiser reporter has been given permission to take his fight against a police harassment notice to a judicial review. He is seeking to overturn a decision by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) that said that the police was right to issue him with a Prevention of Harassment Letter for doorstepping convicted fraudster Neelam Desai once and sending her two emails.
A transgender couple have won a council payout for defamation, after they claimed that they were repeatedly targeted by locals in a campaign of harassment that culminated in defamatory comments published on the council’s website.
Finally, a report in Monday’s Times [£] told us that Lord Dyson MR plans to retire on 31 July when he will be 73 – although he could continue until he is 75. Lord Dyson, who was first appointed a judge in 1993. There was a short profile on Legal Cheek and a news item in the Jewish Chronicle.
Data Protection and Data Privacy
This week the Article 29 Working Party issued a statement on the 2016 action plan for the implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (the “Regulation”), which can be read about here on the Hunton and Williams privacy and information security law blog.
Datonomy, Olswang’s data protection blog, has highlighted the key changes in the ICO’s new code of practice relating to privacy notices, transparency and control.
A blog on the ICO website has made further comment on the announcement of the EU-US Privacy Shield, which we reported on last week.
A blog on Panopticon discussed the issue of whether IP addresses can amount to personal data or not. Another blog on the same site discussed whether Google’s announcement that it will change that practice and introduce consistency across the versions of its browse is a ‘big step forward or a small step back’ with regards to the Right to be Forgotten.
This week a French data protection authority gave Facebook three months to stop tracking non-users’ web activity without their consent and ordered the social network to stop some transfers of personal data to the United States. This is the first significant action to be taken against a company transferring data from the EU to the US after the Safe Harbour agreement has ended.
Surveillance and Information Gathering
A report published this week by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has criticised the government’s draft Investigatory Powers Bill, as reported on Panopticon and Hawktalk. The Committee was “disappointed to note” that the Bill does not cover all the intelligence and security Agencies’ intrusive capabilities, and that the draft Bill fails to provide a clear and comprehensive legal framework to govern the use and oversight of investigatory powers. We had a post about this.
Campaign group Privacy International have lost a legal challenge claiming that GCHQ’s hacking operations are too intrusive and break European law. The group said “We are disappointed that the IPT has not upheld our complaint and we will be challenging its findings”.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were no statements in open court this week.
Newspapers, Journalism and Regulation
This week IPSO announced a series of changes to its rules, which it claims have “enhanced its powers.” However, as reported in Press Gazette, Hacked Off said that “after 15 months of IPSO claiming that radical changes to make it more effective and more independent of the industry are being secured urgently, these minor changes are a damp-squib.” On their web site Hacked Off’s Joint Executive Director Dr. Evan Harris also condemned these changes as “all “press release” and no “press regulation,” and questioned why IPSO did not consult the public over these changes “and instead negotiated in secret with a secretive industry body.”
Following these comments Sir Alan Moses went on BBC Radio 4’s Media Show to say that it was “quite untrue” that IPSO is controlled by the press. Commenting on the changes, he said “what in short we have done is create greater powers to investigate of our own volition, a sanction of quarterly reporting that never existed before and powers to instigate our own complaints…”
In other journalism news Roy Greenslade has commented on how the rightwing press have waged a ‘propaganda war’ persuading readers to vote ‘no’ in the European Union referendum.
Stig Abell, the former director of the PCC, is to leave his role as Managing Editor of the Sun to become the editor of the TLS, succeeding Peter Stothard, who has edited the TLS for the past 14 years.
Last week in the Courts
On Tuesday 9 February 2016, the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), handed down judgment in Guardian News And Media Ltd & Ors v R. & Incedal ( EWCA Crim 11). We had a news story about the decision and a post discussing its implications by Lawrence McNamara.
On 10 February 2016, Dove J dismissed an application by persistent litigant Kamran Malik for an ex parte order banning Donald Trump from entering the United Kingdom. There was a story about the case in the Guardian.
On 11 February 2016 the Court of Appeal gave judgment in Leslie v NGN ( EWCA Civ 79) dismissing the appeal against a ruling of Mann J that the claimants new phone hacking claims were barred by an earlier compromise. The decision was reported by the Herald.
On 12 February 2016 Nicol J gave judgment in Hiranandani-Vandrevala v Times Newspapers Limited ( EWHC 250 (QB)), (heard 20 January 2016). The judge decided that the publications complained of bore the meaning that
There were cogent grounds to suspect that the Claimant (and her father) had fraudulently breached their duties as directors by persuading Hirco to buy plots of land from them at grossly over-stated values. This had caused a loss to Hirco of £350 million and had led to £300m going into an offshore trust owned by the Claimant, her husband and her brother, Darshan.
There was a case report on the 5RB website.
The judgement of HHJ Moloney QC in the curious international harassment case of Power Places Tours Inc & Ors v Free Spirit  EWHC 3886 (QB) given on 10 December 2015 became available on Bailii. The court granted injunctions against the defendant, Free Spirit (that is, as the judge explained, “a human being whose name is Free Spirit” ), both under a previous Tomlin order and for harassment. Free Spirit is a spiritual master who, according to his website “specializes in matters related to Alien Intelligence, Ascension, Astral Travel, Dreaming and Merkabahs, The Reincarnational Cycle, Near Term Human Extinction (caused by catastrophic climate change) and Spiritual Mastery”. He also has a You Tube channel.
2 March 2016, 11 KBW Information Law Conference 2016, Royal College of Surgeons, 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PE.
2 March 2016 Oxford Media Convention, Said Business School, University of Oxford, Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1 HP
8 March 2016 Seminar on Surveillance and Human Rights, Senate House, Information Law & Policy Centre.
16 March 2016 Seminar: Openness in Britain 2016 – Where are we now?, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Information Law & Policy Centre.
Please let us know if there are any events you would like to be included on this list by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
In Australia the state’s first Muslim MP Shaoquett Moselmane launches defamation action against The Australian and reporter Sharri Markson over a column accusing him of making racist comments. The case is first listed for a preliminary hearing on May 6.
The law firm, Schonherr, has a piece about a recent decision in the Austrian Supreme Court confirming that indiscrete Facebook posts may justify dismissal.
Dr. Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, has written a blog post entitled ‘Why Journalism is not Dying in the Digital Age’ read it here.
A three week murder trial in Regina has sparked a debate about publication bans. Tammy and Kevin Goforth are on trial for the murder of a four-year old girl, who cannot be named in publications, despite the fact that this is against her family’s wishes.
The Hoot argues that two recent judgements show how the courts are failing to hold the media to account. Read more about the Star News and IBN7 cases here.
The Fianna Fáil candidate in Galway East, Colm Keaveney, has initiated defamation proceedings against Independent News & Media in relation to an article about the group’s largest shareholder, Denis O’Brien, and the Red Flag lobbying firm.
A blogger in Georgia has lost a libel case and owes $600,000 after he insulted community activist and then-Troup County Board of Commissioners chairman Richard C. Wolfe, and accused him of embezzlement, fraud and corruption, in a blog post and in the comments section.
Read Tyler Broker’s comments about expanding the “No Speculation” test in free speech cases, here.
In actor James Woods’ defamation lawsuit against an anonymous Twitter user who called him a “cocaine addict” he hopes to unmask the user and is seeking $10 million worth of damages. This week the judge in the case denied a motion filed by the Twitter user’s lawyers to strike the case.
A federal judge in Massachusetts ruled on Thursday that Bill Cosby’s wife must give a deposition in a defamation lawsuit against the comedian, but said she can refuse to answer questions about private marital conversations.
Research and Resources
- MsLods’ Law+Tech News Round Up, 9 February 2016.
- IPI online database, Caribbean defamation laws
- Intangible Damages in American Tort Law: A Roadmap Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 2727885, Robert L. Rabin, Stanford Law School
- What are the Limits of Data Protection in the Network Society? Kacper Szkalej, Uppsala University
- Reforming the Law of Reputation 47 Loyola University Chicago Law Journal 515 (2015), U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-03, Frank A. Pasquale III, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law
Next Week in the Courts
We are only aware of one media law case in the High Court next week, the application to set aside judgment in Barron MP & Anor v Vines, to be heard by Sir David Eady on 16 February 2016.
We note that the appeal in Lachaux v Independent Print has now been listed to float on 28 or 29 November 2016, with a time estimate of two days.
The following reserved judgments in media law cases are outstanding:
Burrell v Clifford, heard 25 and 26 January 2016 (Richard Spearman QC)
Monks v National Westminster Bank plc heard 28 and 29 January 2016 (Sir David Eady).
Wasserman v Freilich, heard 2 February 2016 (Sir David Eady)
This Round Up was compiled by Georgia Tomlinson who is a researcher.