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Specialist Guide to the

Global Leaders in Media Law Practice

Scotland is reforming its defamation law as the government’s draft bill proposes numerous amendments intended to bring an end of “vanity cases”.

In January 2019, the government initiated a consultation for public views, inviting the nation to ‘help reform defamation law to ensure it is fit for 21st century Scotland.’

The consultation was launched by the Minister for Community Safety, Ash Denham, who said: “Defamation law potentially affects everyone and it is crucial that we ensure the law is fit for modern Scotland. The enormous growth in the use of social media presents new challenges and means that defamatory communication is becoming increasingly instant and common.”

Lawyers say that the new media law represents a significant change that would deter potential claimants, given the proposed three-year limit on claims and the element of serious harm.

Kenneth Lang, Partner at Mellicks, said: “If the serious harm test becomes part of the Scots law of defamation and the Scottish Courts take the same approach as their English counterparts, there will no longer be any presumption of damage to a claimant. The claimant will have to prove at the outset that publication has caused, or will cause, serious harm.”

Mr Lang added: “That is a significant change and will be a high hurdle for potential claimants. From a publisher’s perspective, the change would be welcome as it would likely serve to deter frivolous or unfounded defamation actions.”  

In business trends and developments, lawyers say the introduction of GDPR has been the most significant news.

Mr Lang commented: “The impact of GDPR across this sector in this jurisdiction has yet to fully play out but it is likely that this will be an increasing point of reference in any contentious matters.”

Other developments include high spend in Scotland’s film and television industry. According to The Scotsman, the industry is worth almost GBP100 million as production spend increases.

In August 2018, Creative Scotland revealed a GBP26 million rise in spend by production companies and film crews in the past 12 months.


Bannatyne Kirkwood France & Co specialises in media law and intellectual property. The firm has a particular emphasis on defamation and is known for its in-depth pre and post publication advice. Lawyers represent clients including Associated Newspapers, The Scotsman Publications and Scottish & Universal Newspapers. The practice is also appointed by political figures.

Brodies is regularly instructed by publishers for pre-publication advice and pre-broadcast content review. With a client base that includes BBC Scotland and Channel 4, the firm’s core competence areas include defamation, contempt, privacy and data protection. Lawyers also work with clients from the video games and new media sectors.

Levy & McRae has established a leading media law department that is the firm’s strongest area of business. The boutique firm is a litigation-only practice known for its expertise in defamation law, commercial litigation and regulatory issues. With two decades of experience, the firm has represented some of the largest print publishers and broadcast networks.

TIER 2  

Burness Paulls media emphasis is driven by intellectual property litigators with particular expertise in sports-related matters. The team, led by Colin Hulme and David Goodbrand, advises clients including Scottish Football Association, the Scottish Rugby Union and Celtic FC. Lawyers also work on outsourcing and overseas data transfer, data sharing, use of personal data online and data breach management.  

CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang assists broadcasters, publishers and gambling operators with matters ranging from defamation, advertising and marketing. The firm has offices in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow and provides broader sector advice on copyright, data protection and privacy.

DLA Piper focusses on several segments including film, audio-visual privacy, digital media and games. With cross-practice and cross-border experience, lawyers assist with production and rights acquisitions, staging and exploiting live sports events and advise on competition law.

Mellicks Solicitors media law is a market leader in the field. The firm has over three decades of experience acting for some of the largest print and online publications in the country. Lawyers offer pre and post publication advice to those clients on all matters which may arise including contempt of court, defamation, privacy, data protection, copyright and regulatory compliance. Lawyers also represent private clients in defamation and privacy claims and provide advice on reputation management issues, including complaints to IPSO.

Pinsent Masons lawyers advise on film and television investments, the procurement of new programmes, acquisition of broadcasting rights and multi-platform works including online games. Managed by Yvonne Dunn, the TMT group advises Creative Scotland on a range of matters which include developing the potential of film makers in Scotland.


Shepherd and Wedderburn acts for global TMT organisations, regulators and industry associations. The team advises on regulatory issues related to market entry, product launch assessments and is routinely involved in matters connected with cloud computing, data protection and data retention.

Thorntons Solicitors focuses on publishing, social media, television and music sectors. Clients include individual music artists and international corporations. Lawyers advise on advertising, marketing and convergence between traditional media and online. In highlighted work the team advised on the acquisition of online streaming rights of funded television content and sponsored television programmes


Bannatyne Kirkwood France & Co   


Levy & McRae


Burness Paull

CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang

DLA Piper

Mellicks Solicitors

Pinsent Masons


Addleshaw Goddard

Harper Macleod  

Shepherd and Wedderburn

Thorntons Solicitors


Anderson Strathern  

BTO Solicitors





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