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Specialist Guide to the
Global Leaders in Media Law Practice
With the progression of legal and business developments, Australia’s media market will see more corporate reorganisations, mergers and spin-offs, say practitioners.
Legislative changes to media ownership rules have long been the subject of contention and widely regarded as anachronistic. The Federal Government's bill to change media ownership and regulation finally passed Senate, with 31 votes to 27, in September 2017.
Commenting on the development, Andrew Stewart, Baker McKenzie, said: “Changes to scrap media ownership rules come at a time when a number of organisations are trying to work out a way forward with falling print media subscriptions and challenging advertising revenue.”
In other news, Australia’s regulator approved a merger between Foxtel and Fox Sports in December 2017, after a formal inquiry launched two months earlier.
The Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced that would not oppose the merger as “the change in ownership structure is unlikely to substantially lessen competition”.
In September 2017 CBS took ownership of Ten Network. In the same month, record-breaking
damages were awarded in a defamation case brought by Hollywood actress Rebel Wilson against Bauer Media Group, in which she was awarded AUD 4.5m.
Legal market developments include a marked increase in copyright-related work.
Mr Stewart noted: “Work we’ve done in the copyright space indicates that people are taking copyright infringement far more seriously. We will see more direct action in relation to those involved in piracy. “
Other trends highlighted by lawyers include a rise in activity involving content development. Shane Barber, Bird & Bird, explained:
“We are seeing a lot of people getting involved in content developments - and it’s not expensive drama anymore. It’s cheaper drama because of the demand for content so the big thing we have been focussing on is the amount of work we are getting from esports and online gaming.”
Baker McKenzie’s Sydney office has a dedicated media and content practice group that works with new and established media entities in free-to-air television, pay television, radio, online service providers and multimedia companies. Andrew Stewart and Adrian J. Lawrence are the firm’s primary contacts for media who focus on defamation, pre-broadcast contempt, intellectual property and information technology.
With a broadcasting specialisation, Corrs Chambers Westgarth has leading expertise in communications, media, entertainment and technology. The firm’s work on corporate transactional cases includes Southern Cross Media’s takeover of Austereo Group Limited in a AUD 724 million deal. Lawyers have notable experience advising on broadcasting, spectrum licensing and commercial radio. Thomas Jones is highlighted by clients who say “He marries a strong knowledge of the black letter law with a desire to develop the most effective and creative legal strategy.”
is one of Asia Pacific’s leading firms for media law. The practice is known for advising on distribution and licensing of digital content, social media and digital platform matters. The team acts for recording companies, film industry associations and studios. In highlighted work lawyers advised the ABC on the renewal of its agreement with Broadcast Australia for its analogue transmission services nationwide. The media division works closely with the firm’s M&A team on restructurings, media public listings and private equity acquisitions and divestments.
is highly reputed for its world class defamation law advice. Clients describe lawyers as “disciplined, calm and able to react quickly to changing circumstances”. The team works with clients on cross-media ownership, copyright licensing, broadcasting and online content regulation. Head of department Peter Bartlett is widely recognised for his leadership in cases of defamation, and prepublication advice. This experience includes acting for clients including Fairfax, Bloomberg, Seven Media and Network Ten.
With broad industry coverage, Ashurst works across segments. Led by Tim Brookes and Mark Lubbock, the team assists with matters involving e-commerce, data protection, intellectual property, gaming and commercial contracts. Lawyers advise on transactional and regulatory matters, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and structured finance.
Atanaskovic Hartnell’s corporate and commercial department is focussed on transactional,
regulatory and disputes within the TMT sector. Under the leadership of John Atanaskovic, the team advises on convergence of telecommunications and media, foreign investment restrictions, spectrum allocation and reallocation, carriage and content services and datacasting. Other areas of specialisation include joint ventures, licence rights and obligations.
Clayton Utz combines commercial and regulatory experience. The firm has a strong position in the national market and is noted for its work on corporate and transactional issues involving mergers and acquisitions. Sydney-based partners Bruce Lloyd and Kate Jordan lead the division advising on content arrangements and IT outsourcing, copyright and other intellectual property issues and commercial litigation.
Full service firm King & Wood Mallesons specialises in all aspects of TMT with particular emphasis on the entertainment sector. Lawyers have substantial cross-border capabilities and advise on national broadband rollouts, regulatory reform and compliance, network access agreements and disputes. The firm represents clients in broadcasting, print, social media and gaming sectors. In representative work, the team acted for Universal Music on its acquisition of EMI’s recorded music business and its subsequent divestiture sale of nine recorded music assets.
Allens is recognised for its work in mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures in the media and technology sectors. Head of the TMT group, Niranjan Arasaratnam, has advised on numerous media licensing and procurement projects in Australia and Asia. Among work, the team acted for Disney on mobile application development agreements and commercial and licensing arrangements. Lawyers also advised NBCUniversal on corporate transactions.
Herbert Smith Freehills is known for its work in disputes and risk management in all areas of the TMT sector. The team includes litigators, arbitrators and mediators. Regularly advising broadcasters and content providers, lawyers are adept case handlers advising on disputes about ownership and control, access to networks, regulation and competition, content rights and agreements. Clients include BskyB, Microsoft and Telstra.
McCullough Robertson lawyers have more than two decades of experience assisting broadcasters with cases of defamation and contempt. Malcolm McBratney manages the media group, working with Bill Morrissey and the wider team on entertainment transactions. Team experience includes advising on music, film production, television licensing and production contracts and publishing agreements.
Webb Henderson specialises in high value corporate, commercial and regulatory matters. Founded by Angus Henderson, a former Gilbert + Tobin partner, the firm is best known for its emphasis on the communications sector. Ara Margossian is highlighted by peers for his experience advising broadcasters and telecom operators. In representative work the team assisted Foxtel, a leading pay-television provider, with its launch of triple play services in Australia.
Addisons groups media and intellectual property providing services across a range of media segments. The team advises on contractual and strategic matters, including pre-publication clearances, advertising contracts, sponsorship and talent agreements. Other aspects of work include digital media and regulatory issues. Key contacts include Karen Hayne and Martin O’Connor who specialise in commercial and litigation matters respectively.
Maddocks has global experience advising on digital matters including content application deals with Fox Sports and online marketing and promotional strategies. The practice is also recognised for its work involving broadcasting, recording and publishing clients from regions including Japan, Europe and the US.
Ranking and editorials
Corrs Chambers Westgarth
King & Wood Mallesons
Banki Haddock Fiora
Bird & Bird
Herbert Smith Freehills
Johnson Winter & Slattery
Mark O’Brien Legal
Norton Rose Fulbright
RANKING AND EDITORIALS