Copyright © Media Law International 2020. All Rights Reserved.
Specialist Guide to the
Global Leaders in Media Law Practice
The UK media market has record spend on streaming services, a consolidating newspaper market and changes to media law, giving Ofcom authority to regulate the internet.
Spend on streaming music, films and television reached its highest level in the past year, at more than GBP3 billion. The increase in spend is attributed to the rise in popularity of services such as Netflix, Amazon and Spotify.
Annual sales figures, published by the Entertainment Retailers Association in January 2020, show that entertainment market spend, including the video games sector, totalled a record GBP7.8 billion.
The past year end ended with newspaper market consolidated as part of efforts to address declining print sales and a digital advertising market that is dominated by tech giants.
In November 2019, the Daily Mail and General Trust acquired the i newspaper from JPI Media in an all-cash deal for GBP49.6 million, more than double its price tag three years ago.
The i title was launched in 2010 as a sister publication to The Independent and was sold in 2016 for GBP24 million.
In a statement, DMGT Chief Executive Paul Zwillenberg commented: ‘I want to make absolutely
clear that we will ensure that the editorial independence of the ‘i’ is preserved.’
In other significant developments this year, the Government announced in February that it would give regulators the power to fine social media companies for harmful content on their platforms as part of new measures to regulate the internet.
The UK’s broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, will have the authority to enforce a “duty of care” on internet companies "to protect users from harmful and illegal terrorist and child abuse content".
Secretary of State, Nicky Morgan, said: “With Ofcom at the helm of a proportionate and strong regulatory regime, we have an incredible opportunity to lead the world in building a thriving digital economy, driven by groundbreaking technology, that is trusted by and protects everyone in the UK.”
Baroness Morgan added: “We will give the regulator the powers it needs to lead the fight for an internet that remains vibrant and open but with the protections, accountability and transparency people deserve.”
As described by one client, “Baker McKenzie always provides outstanding service and expertise. While we tend to use them for dispute related issues, we have also utilised their world wide foot print and expertise with regards to a number of media issues in areas like China, the Middle East and the EU in addition to the UK.” Ben Allgrove and Steve Holmes are joint leaders of the firm’s broadcasting and communications division and act for a spectrum of entertainment and television clients.
CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang is highlighted as a “film production specialist” by competitors who single out Jacqueline Hurt for her related expertise. The firm has a reputation for achieving excellence in a range of cases and receives a multitude of client praise. “The partners we mostly use are John Enser and Victoria Gaskell. We rate them very highly - both are experts in media law and are real assets on complex media transactions,” noted one client. The team advises on media regulatory aspects of transactions and regularly acts for independently-owned television production companies. In representative work the team advised BBC Worldwide on this long-term joint venture with AMC Networks Inc.
DLA Piper is among global leaders in the area of media law. Joint practice leaders Nick Fitzpatrick and Chris Hanson represent a multitude of clients from Hollywood studios to investors and government agencies. The team has extensive experience working with clients from the music, sports, publishing and broadcast media segments. One client note: “DLA Piper has handled some acquisition work and we have found their UK office to be particularly good at cost management.”
gains its leading reputation from decades of sector specialisation and high quality advice. Competitors praise the firm for its work with broadcasters, theatre companies and interactive media companies. Other focus areas include media financing, film and television. The media division is a composition of highly reputed lawyer such as Tony Ballard. Other key practitioners include Neil Adleman and Peter Armstrong.
Lee & Thompson’s media sector focus attracts multi-level praise from competitors who single out the firm for its industry commitment. Music, film, sports, theatre and digital media all feature as part of the firm’s areas of specialisation with an emphasis on media finance.
Principle areas of work at Schillings include reputation defence, defamation and privacy. The firm is widely recognised as a national leader in all three areas of practice. The multidisciplinary team represents high-net-worth individuals, private and publicly listed businesses. With 30 years of specialisation, the firm provides broad reputation services including risk consulting and cyber security. Other areas of work include commercial litigation and pre and post publication.
With exclusive focus on media, technology and IP, Wiggin is recognised nationally and abroad. The firm has offices in London, Cheltenham and Brussels with areas of practice including commercial, tax, finance and litigation. Lawyers have extensive experience advising on defamation, media finance, data privacy and content distribution. Michael Brader co-manages the media corporate group.
Bird & Bird’s media group is split into sub-sector teams that cover multiple segments including games, publishing, television, radio, film, music and online media. Led by Phil Sherrell the practice handles broadcast media rights work for rights holders across football, hockey, equestrian and rugby unions. Lawyers also advise across the content deliver chain, from creation, financing and production to distribution and regulation.
Carter-Ruck’s core areas of focus include pre and post-publication advice and online reputation. The firm is described by peers as “one of the top for defamation”. Nigel Tait, who manages the media law department, has obtained numerous injunctions for clients restraining privacy infringement. Other key practitioners include Alasdair Pepper who has considerable experience advising on in pre-publication.
Charles Russell Speechlys is distinctly involved in cases connected with communications and computer games. The team advises on a range of games-related agreements, including licensing deals, development and publishing agreements. In highlighted work, communications lawyer Vincenzo Lanni advised UK television digital transmission provider Comux on its launch of Local TV over Comux infrastructure shared by all UK local television operators.
Dentons acts for clients including Modern Times Group, Sripps Networks Interactive and Sony. In highlighted work the firm advised OSN on its bid for the media rights for the Middle East and North Africa region to international cricket matches, organised by the International Cricket Council for the period 2015-2023. Lawyers also assist clients with intellectual property, data protection, sector-related tax and regulation.
Tim Johnson manages the technology, media and communications division at Fieldfisher, which covers a multitude of segments. The team regularly advises on media, corporate finance, media tax, sports, advertising and satellite projects. Highlighted work led by Mr Johnson includes advice on the oscar-winning film The King's Speech, assisting with the sale of the BBC Audio books business and the establishment of media asset financing funds.
expanded its practice with the hire of Andrew Stephenson who joined from Carter-Ruck and brings exceptional expertise in the area of defamation. The firm’s media division is managed by Christopher Hutchings who specialises in all areas of music litigation. Lawyers advise on film, television, digital media and handle complex litigation.
Howard Kennedy has an unwavering reputation for its industry specialisation. The firm’s media and entertainment practice is under the management of astute practitioner Mark Stephens whose areas of expertise include defamation, privacy, freedom of information and litigation. Lawyers advise on comparative law and regulation, data protection, copyright, licensing compliance and publishing agreements.
Kemp Little is a specialist technology and digital media law firm which provides expert legal advice to help its clients innovate and grow. Kemp Little lawyers are technology specialists with hundreds of years of combined experience of technology and digital media issues, ensuring that its clients benefit not only from extensive legal knowledge but also unrivalled commercial experience. In its 21-year history, Kemp Little lawyers have advised on countless technology deals for all types of companies across numerous business sectors – from the hottest start-ups to FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 enterprises, also supporting their broader needs across employment and intellectual property.
International peers highlight Lewis Silkin for its extensive involved in industry-specific cases. UK-based competitors single out David Deakin for his focus on digital media including video, publishing, games and apps. The practice has notable experience in dispute resolution with a specialist media, IP and reputation team. Other areas of focus include film, music, television and branded entertainment.
Sheridans has a long history of sector specialisation across wide-ranging segments including theatre, music, film, and computer games. Established in 1956, the practice covers all core sectors of media with extended capabilities in corporate, commercial, employment and other practice areas. The firm has a strong reputation for its industry commitment.
Music and entertainment specialist Bray & Krais is notably recognised for its non-contentious work. The practice advises on media-related matters that include commercial, corporate and employment aspects. Founding partners Richard Bray and Mark Krais have broad experience acting for artists, management agents, recording studios, publishers and sports sector clients.
The media and sports groups closely collaborate at Farrer & Co. In a highlighted case the team advised on the exploitation of television broadcast rights in significant sporting events owned by prominent national governing bodies. The firm was also appointed by the Higher Education Group in its acquisition of significant archives by leading Russell Group universities. Other work includes advising radio broadcasters including Bauer Radio, the broadcaster of Kiss and Magic 105.4.
Herbert Smith Freehills has strong transactional experience that is closely matched by in-depth knowledge of media regulation. The media practice is respected for its work in the area of dispute resolution. In exemplarity work the team acted for Austar, a prominent subscription television operator in Australia, on its AUD 2 billion takeover by Foxtel.
Sports, fashion and media form the core areas of practice at Onside Law. The firm is notably recognised for its work with clients from music, television and film sectors. In representative work founding partner Jamie Singer led the team in its advise on all rights associated with the Parkinson talk show archives dating from the early seventies to 2008. The case included various co-production and distribution agreements with the BBC and Granada Media.
Reynolds Porter Chamberlain’s publishing and pre-publication work is recognised nationally with competitors highlighting the media team’s defamation expertise. The firm’s work ranges from corporate transactions and commercial agreements to media regulation and litigation. With two decades of experience Keith Mathieson manages the practice which is appointed by clients such as Mirror Group, Telegraph Media Group and Financial Times.
Simmons & Simmons’ prominence transcends borders. The firm’s traditional strength in technology supports its work in the area of converged media. Lawyers are described by clients as “calm in stressful situations” and “very clear, thorough and level headed. All the good things one would ask for”. The firm’s full-service scope provides clients with an integrated service across corporate, regulatory and commercial matters, nationally and abroad.
Tom Lingard led the team advising Omnibill Limited in a case concerning unauthorised online reproduction of over 1,600 photographs. The case raised legal issues concerning the liability of a UK company for infringement that occurred primarily abroad. In other work lawyers acted for Future Publishing on a defamation dispute with X Factor judge Sharon Osbourne. The team is praised by clients, with one commenting: “All of the lawyers I have worked with have been efficient, knowledgeable and pleasant to work with.”
Bindmans focusses on media and information law and has long-standing expertise in this area. The firm’s work, led by Tamsin Allen, involves advice on privacy, broadcast regulation and reporting restrictions. In highlighted work the firm achieved substantial settlements for a number of clients who were victims of phone hacking, including the former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott, Chris Bryant MP, Denis MacShane MP and two journalists.
Defamation, data protection and copyright disputes are among Blake Morgan’s focus areas.
and licensing. Lawyers also handle libel and privacy litigation on behalf of commercial organisations and private individuals.
Boyes Turner boasts an impressive digital media and communications practice. Clients include Guardian News & Media, AutoTrader and Seven Publishing. From their Thames Valley base, the firm advises national and international clients – offering City knowledge without the City prices – on the management, protection and exploitation of data across platforms and channels as well as on data protection and security issues critical to digital media, advertising and marketing businesses. The team has particular expertise of digital advertising technologies, and is also known for providing outsourced legal counsel services for clients, as a substitute or extension for an in-house function.
Managed by the media department at Eversheds Sutherland specialises in contentious and non-contentious work. The team assists with recording contracts, music publishing agreements, sponsorship and licensing. In related work lawyers advised on the re-release of two leading artists' back catalogue including digital exploitation and new media rights. The case also involved international distribution and broadcast of a television show.
Fladgate’s corporate and litigation lawyers advise on media matters and technology-related disputes. Lawyers handle significant defamation cases in the UK and assist with regulatory and licensing issues. The team, which includes key practitioner Eddie Powell, also advises on all aspects of online presence, including content production and acquisition.
Latham & Watkins handles acquisitions, investments and joint ventures. The firm is also appointed by sports teams and leagues. Head of division Joseph A. Calabrese advises on the creation, operation and financing of entertainment and media companies, including negotiating complex distribution and licensing agreements. The team also advises on broadcast licensing contracts and joint venture agreements.
Travers Smith’s commercial IP/ IT and regulatory division, led by Richard Brown, is appointed by a diverse range of clients, from the BBC and Channel 4 to Times Educational and Ambassador Theatre Group. In highlighted work the team advised Pinewood Studios on its joint venture agreements with Seven Stars Entertainment in China and with Rivers Rock. Lawyers also acted for YouView on its contractual arrangements ahead of the launch of its new linear and on demand television platform.
CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang
Lee & Thompson
Bird & Bird
Charles Russell Speechlys
Bray & Krais
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
Farrer & Co
Herbert Smith Freehills
Mishcon de Reya
Reynolds Porter Chamberlain
Simons Muirhead & Burton
Simmons & Simmons
Bates Wells Braithwaite
Clyde & Co
Trainer Shepherd Philips Melin Haynes & Collins Long
ACK Media Law
Allen & Overy
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Latham & Watkins
RANKING AND EDITORIALS