Law and Media Round Up – 30 May 2016

30 05 2016

WeeklyNews2This week is the Easter Legal Vacation.  The Easter Term finished on 27 May 2016 and the last term of the legal year, the Trinity Term, starts on 7 June 2016, running until 29 July 2016. There are, therefore, no non urgent hearings in the High Court, Court of Appeal or Supreme Court this week.

Full libel trials are now something of a rarity. One took place last week before Warby J over four days, Theedom v Nourish Training. There has, curiously, already been a trial of the “serious harm” preliminary issue (see our post here).  Judgment was reserved.

The College of Policing has launched a consultation on new Media Relations guidelines. Various concerns have been expressed that these guidelines will hinder journalists’ ability to speak to police officers but the College of Policing has denied this.  Roy Greenslade’s piece was entitled “New police guidelines reinforce controls on journalistic contacts”.

The veteran Guardian journalist Michael White has written a thoughtful piece on the celebrity threesome super injunction case. He concludes:

In an age of assertive nationalism we ought to celebrate British judges standing up for due process against corporate commercial interests and a baying media which preaches the rule of law but also tries to flout it across their inside pages. What does that mean? They know what it means, but may already have forgotten in the hunt for fresh outrage.

Warby J gave judgment on some case management issues in the case of Economou v De Freitas ([2016] EWHC 1218 (QB)).  Meanwhile, the claimant has been prosecuted for harassing the defendant. Alexander Economou was accused of rape by Eleanor De Freitas in 2013, no case was brought to court and he responded bringing a private prosecution against Eleanor for making false claims, which was taken over by the Crown Prosecution Service.

23 year old Eleanor, who suffered from bipolar disorder, committed suicide days before the trial was to begin. Economou is now being accused of harassing Eleanor’s father David De Freitas by sending him texts and emails over an 11 month period. A letter from Economou, which was delivered by hand, warned David de Freitas to “keep quiet or face the consequences” the court heard. District Judge Tan Ikram will give a written judgement on the case on 2 June 2016.

ResPublica think tank has argued that Google and Facebook should be paying for the news they take from other outlets to support journalism.

A writer has won a two year legal battle against comic book giants Marvel and DC, who did not want him to use the word “superhero” in the title of his book, Business Zero to Superhero. The Guardian shows how publishers have usually fared in the courts.

Social Media

Facebook have announced that they will now be tracking and showing target adverts to every person who uses third-party sites that are signed up to its advertising scheme, regardless of whether they have a Facebook account or not.

The German Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt), a German competition authority, have opened their investigation into whether or not Facebook abused their alleged dominant position in social networking by violating data protection laws.

Data Protection and Data Privacy

The Irish Data Protection Commissioner has announced that it intends to seek clarification on the legal status of the EU Standard Contractual Clauses (the Model Clauses), as part of its ongoing investigation into privacy activist Max Schrems’ complaint against Facebook. It has said that it would refer Facebook’s data transfer mechanisms to the top EU court.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (“EDPS”) has presented its Annual Report for 2015 [pdf] this week.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) has also published it’s priorities for preparing for the EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”).

The is a post on the PeepBeep blog discussing the implications of location technology for data protection.

Hawktalk explores the question of opt-in or opt-out in marketing in relation to data protection.

Surveillance and Information Gathering

As the Investigatory Powers Bill is moving to report stage, Graham Smith’s Cyberleagle blog revisits one of the most fundamental points in the Bill: the dividing line between content and metadata.

The Information Law and Policy Centre at the IALS have announced a call for papers that consider information law and policy in the context of human rights for their research workshop in November.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

There were no statements in open court this week.

Newspapers Journalism and Regulation

Roy Greenslade in the Guardian comments on the decline in print revenues in several of the major national newspapers, after Daily Mail & General Trust, had to issue a warning to investors after its newspaper division reported a 29% fall in profits.

The Daily Telegraph’s chief foreign correspondent, Colin Freeman, who was kidnapped by Somali pirates while on assignment and threatened with execution, is among those being made redundant in a fresh round of cuts to editorial staff. Roy Greenslade in the Guardian points out Telegraph Media Group’s chief executive Murdoch MacLennan’s hypocrisy, as he followed an announcement of “smart working” and “employee-friendly practices” with announcements of redundancies.

The Daily Mail has published a correction about its’ misleading EU migrants story which read:

“In common with other newspapers, an article on February 17 said that criminal    ‘convictions’ for EU migrants had gone up by 40% in five years with 700 being found    guilty every week.

In fact, as the article went on to explain, the figures related to ‘notifications’, which include breaches of court orders and appeals as well as convictions.”

The Press Gazette reports that Prince Harry’s complaint to IPSO to egarding a Daily Mail article alleging that he was having a ‘secret romance’ with Pippa Middleton has been rejected by the press regulator.

A Times headline claiming that a BBC documentary was ‘racist’, was based on a single anonymous tweet, reported Roy Greenslade in the Guardian.

Last week in the Courts

As already mentioned, the trial in the case of Theedom v Nourish Training took place before Warby J on 23 to 26 May 2016.  Judgment was reserved.

On 24 May 2016 the Court of Appeal (Laws, King and Lindblom LJJ) heard the appeal in the case of Simpson v Mirror Group Newspapers.  Judgment was reserved.

On 25 May 2015, Warby J gave judgment in the case of Economou v De Freitas ([2016] EWHC 1218 (QB))(heard 12 May 2016). The trial is listed to on 13 June 2016 with a time estimate of 7 days.

We also note that, on 20 May 2016, Laws LJ gave permission to appeal against the decision of Sir Michael Tugendhat on the issue of privilege ([2015] EWHC 3677 (QB)) in the case of Lachaux v Independent Print. He ordered that the appeal should be expedited.

Events

Please let us know if there are any events you would like to be included on this list by email: inforrmeditorial@gmail.com.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

Australia

The New South Wales Attorney-General has applied to have a Sydney man declared a vexatious litigant after he launched numerous and repeated court actions against several neighbours, including over a Facebook post, leaving them with tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills.

Pogo was right privacy website questions whether Australia is slowly getting its act together against revenge porn.

Bulgaria

There has been a surprise change to Bulgarian media law; the DG of Bulgarian National Television (BNT) and their radio counterpart could effectively find themselves in their posts indefinitely.

Canada

The British Colombia court has granted an ex parte injunction Against Google and GoDaddy and awarded $1.2 in damages in an Internet defamation case, where Natel Nazerali claimed he was defamed by Mark Mitchell, the principal author and publisher of www.deepcature.com.

Quebec has passed website blocking legislation, which requires Internet service providers to block access to a list of online gambling sites to be identified by the government-backed Loto-Québec.

Social Media Bulletin has looked at the battle between protecting copyright online while simultaneously protecting the privacy rights of online users in Canada. They also look at the issue of liability for third-party defamatory comments on one’s personal social media account as an emerging issue in Canadian media law.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) has announced its report of findings against Compu-Finder, a Quebec-based company that offers face-to-face professional training courses.

Hong Kong

The High Court has ordered Next Media Publishing to pay HK$3 million in damages to BaWang International, for publishing a defamatory article in July 2010 that stated that BaWang’s shampoo could cause cancer. BaWan’s share prices soared after the win.

India

The Indian Express has argued that Need for a criminal defamation law is even stronger than it was in the 19th century and that the Supreme Court has ‘rightly upheld it,’ in their judgment upholding Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC.

On the other side of the argument Subir Ghosh in the News Minute has argued that ‘criminal defamation hurts everybody, not just journalists.  V. Venkatesan in Frontline also argued that ‘the judgment of the Supreme Court’s two-judge bench upholding defamation as a criminal offence is a setback to free speech jurisprudence.’

Ireland

The Press Council of Ireland has called for libel pay-outs to be drastically overhauled. The outgoing chairperson of the Press Council has called for judges to decide damages for defamation cases, rather than allowing juries to do so.

The High Court has found that the Irish Aviation Authority correctly asserted legal privilege in relation to 39 documents listed in a defamation case, with five exceptions, which were ordered to be disclosed to the plaintiff. Paul McMahon was seeking damages or defamation in respect of statements made in a report by the Irish Aviation Authority in August 2014, arising out of an incident where a parachutists was injured after landing outside the designated drop zone.

Jersey

A new cyber bullying law that aims to tackle the sending of “offensive messages” is a risk to free speech, according to Neil McMurray, a political blogger who runs the Voice for Children blog.

Kenya

A three-judge bench has upheld fines of up to Sh500,000 for journalists and Sh20 million for media houses for breaching media laws. The Daily Nation has criticised this decision saying that ‘the future of media practitioners remain uncertain after the High Court declared two draconian laws passed three years ago constitutional.’

Malaysia

The Court of Appeal has quashed the RM300,000 in damages awarded to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng over an online news article that quoted a heritage activist.

Malta

The Nationalist Party has said that hours after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat repeated a lie about Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil in Parliament, Dr Busuttil won a libel case on the same statement.

An Editorial in the Times of Malta has claimed that ‘the press (is) under siege’

Switzerland

Former International Cycling Union (UCI) President Hein Verbruggen has won a defamation case in the Swiss Courts against Irish journalist and former cyclist Paul Kimmage.

United States

Edward Forchion, who operates a restaurant called NJ Weedman’s Joint in Trenton, New Jersey, has been prosecuted for cyber harassment for calling a New Jersey police officer a “paedophile” online.

A judge has upheld Hulk Hogan’s $140 million trial victory against Gawker. The revelation that billionaire Peter Thiel has been bankrolling Hogan in the lawsuit has ‘raised concerns in the US about the effect on the freedom of the press,’ according to the Drum. The Washington Post has published an article saying that this revelation could have serious implications during a Trump presidency.

An attorney has asked the Nebraska Supreme Court to reverse a district judge’s quarter-million-dollar judgment against the city of Lincoln for wrongly accusing a woman of theft on TV and online.

Upholding a student’s right to parody an adjunct professor by means of an imposter Twitter account, the Court of Appeals of Michigan last week affirmed a trial court’s order dismissing the professor’s lawsuit against the student.

Zambia

Lusaka High Court judge Fulgence Chisanga has struck off from the active cause list a case where UPND president Hakainde Hichilema sued PF secretary general Davis Chama and five others demanding K6 million for defamation.

Research and Resources

Next Week in the Courts

There are no media and law cases listed this week as it is the legal vacation.

Judgments

The following reserved judgments in media law cases are outstanding:

CG v Facebook Ireland Limited, heard 4 and 5 April 2016 (Morgan LCJ, Gillen and Weatherup LJJ)(Northern Ireland Court of Appeal)

Barron v Vines, heard 17 and 18 May 2016 (Warby J)

DMK v News Group Newspapers, heard 20 May 2016 (Warby J)

Simpson v Mirror Group Newspapers, heard, 24 May 2016 (Laws, King and Lindblom LJJ).

Theedom v Nourish Training.  Heard 23 to 26 May 2016 (Warby J).

 This week’s round up was compiled by Georgia Tomlinson who is a researcher.


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