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Specialist Guide to the

Global Leaders in Media Law Practice

Copyright © Media Law International 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Social media is having a profound effect on legislation as the global importance

of data privacy heightens, with California enacting a privacy law amid calls for a federal law to protect against the collection and sale of personal data.

In February 2019, Cisco joined Apple in its calls for a US version of Europe’s GDPR. Apple’s Chief Executive Officer, Tim Cook, was joined by Cisco's Chief Legal Officer, Mark Chandler, in calling for a comprehensive federal privacy law that regulates the use of personal data.

Ashima Dayal, Partner at Davis & Gilbert, commented: “Social media drove the most significant developments in US media law and business in 2018. The social media platform that had the most impact on US legislation and litigation, and in the marketplace, was Facebook.”

An international conference in Brussels on data privacy, held in October 2018, highlighted concerns about business models of companies such as Google and Facebook. Speaking at the conference, Mr Cook warned that personal data is being “weaponised” against the public.

Lawyers say the implementation of GDPR in 2018 strengthened the restrictions imposed by law on social media and digital companies on how they access, collect, disclose and use information.  

Ms Dayal said: “The California law, and the proposed US federal law, does not go nearly as far as the GDPR in protecting user privacy but it is a

significant jump in protection from existing US federal and state law.”

In other news, US Broadcaster Nexstar agreed to buy Chicago-based Tribune Media in a USD6.4 billion cash deal, announced in December 2018. It will create the largest local television broadcaster and local media company in the US.

The merger comes months after Sinclair Broadcast Group’s USD3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media failed following regulatory scrutiny. Nexstar’s acquisition is part of a move towards consolidation after US regulators relaxed broadcast ownership rules last year.

Perry Sook, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Nexstar, commented: “Nexstar has long viewed the acquisition of Tribune Media as a strategically, financially and operationally compelling opportunity that brings immediate value to shareholders.”

In September 2018, 21st Century Fox agreed to sell its 39 per cent share in UK-based Sky plc

to Comcast.

The deal was announced after Comcast made a winning bid at auction for Sky plc at GBP17.28 a share, ahead of Fox’s GBP15.67 valuation.


Ballard Spahr significantly expanded its capacity after its merger with Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, which took effect on 01 October 2017. The firms operate under the name Ballard Spahr and together and together create a powerhouse combination with expertise in news, entertainment, sports, publishing and advertising. With decades of experience, lawyers assist some of the largest media clients, including advertisers nationally and worldwide.

Cooley has an unfaltering reputation for sector specialisation. The practice is frequently praised for its media industry dedication and is highlighted by competitors nationally. Lawyers have broad experience structuring and negotiating transactions involving video and music content, including deals with leading US film studios, television networks, record companies and performing rights societies. The media division is led by Adam Ruttenberg in Washington and Jennifer Massey in Los Angeles and involves representation of established and start-up companies.

Clients praise Davis & Gilbert’s Entertainment, Media & Sports practice, emphasizing that “the depth and breadth of their counsel creates long-term value for [clients],” and praising the firm’s ability to balance clients’ legal needs against business demands.  Led by partners Ashima Dayal and Jim Johnston, the group skillfully handles both deals and disputes, conducts pre-publication and pre-broadcast content review and provides advice on privacy, intellectual property, libel and other sophisticated issues posed by entertainment and editorial content. Clients range from authors, artists and athletes to publishers, producers, developers and distributors, across all content and spanning traditional to digital media.

A US leader for all matters related to media, Davis Wright Tremaine is widely recognised for its work in First Amendment litigation, pre-publication and pre-broadcast advice. Based in New York, industry specialist Robert D. Balin acts for local and multinational firms in cases of defamation, privacy and copyright. The firm’s specialisations include entertainment, radio, television, digital media and advertising.


Hogan Lovells is widely recognised for its extensive involvement in high profile cases on behalf of media and entertainment clients. With decades of experience, Mark J. Weinstein leads the practice group working with clients from the print, film, broadcast and games sectors. His experience includes representation of public and private companies in purchases and sales of professional sports franchises and venues.

Latham & Watkins works with entertainment and sports clients. Joseph A. Calabrese leads the media practice, working from the firm’s Los Angeles office, advising on corporate, transactional and financial aspects of sector-related deals. The team assists with the creation, operation and financing of entertainment and media companies, including negotiating complex distribution and licensing agreements, mergers and acquisitions and structured finance transactions.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman has broad sector specialisation with a focus on broadcast, talent, and advertising. Media lawyers have extensive experience acting in cases of defamation, invasion of privacy and rights of publicity. Under the leadership of Los Angeles-based Carolyn S. Toto, the team advises on financing, production and distribution of motion pictures. Related experience includes assisting with the acquisition of film and programming rights and the purchase and sale of libraries. Cydney Tune, who works at the firm’s San Francisco practice, takes the lead in cases connected with music, video and multi-media.

Multi-disciplinary practice Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton is praised by clients and competitors. Robb Klein and Morgan Sloane are among practitioners highlighted by clients. The team is described as “Excellent, responsive, proactive and problem solving”. The firm’s work includes the representation of Snapchat on the launch of the Discover platform on the Snapchat app. Lawyers advised on the production of all original content. The team also acted for AwesomenessTV in its multi-year content creation and licensing deal with DreamWorks Animation and Verizon.


First Amendment and media litigation specialist Cahill Gordon & Reindel has decades of experience defending free speech. Working on complex disputes, the team advises on libel, privacy rights and copyright. Based in New York, Joel Kurtzberg and Susan Buckley advise newspaper and magazine publishers, broadcast networks, motion picture and music distributors.

Debevoise & Plimpton’s TMT division is active in corporate and transactional cases. Based in New York, Michael J. Gillespie advised Organizações Globo on its strategic alliance with News Corp. and Televisa to provide pan-regional DTH television services in Latin America. The firm was also appointed by Discovery Communications in its USD 195 million investment in Lions Gate Entertainment. Other notable lawyers include Jeffrey P. Cunard, managing partner of the Washington office, who leads the firm’s corporate, intellectual property, information technology and e-commerce practices.

With a presence around the US, Dentons has a leading focus on media. Chicago-based Tiffany Amlot is among the firm’s key practitioners for media law and advises newspaper publishers and broadcasters on disputes. In the New York office Michael Bamberger leads on cross-region First Amendment cases while David Baum handles commercial and finance-related cases involving entertainment, intellectual property, sports and music.

Working from New York and Los Angeles, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz represents clients on multiple media cases. The firm focusses on cross-border transactions and global media clearance. Lawyers assist with interactive entertainment, copyright, advertising, celebrity branding and litigation. The practice has over three decades of experience advising on production, distribution, syndication, broadcast and financing. Managing partner Jeffrey A. Greenbaum and co-head of media S. Gregory Boyd are the firm’s key practitioners.

Loeb & Loeb is highly regarded by peers for its handling of entertainment and media cases. The firm’s industry specialisations include interactive and digital entertainment, radio, publishing and sports. Managing partner Craig A. Emanuel, based in Los Angeles, is involved in the negotiation of strategic distribution agreements with leading studios. Working from the firm’s New York office, Roger M. Arar focusses on television finance, production, distribution and talent

Perkins Coie’s service areas include sports, entertainment and advertising. Seattle-based Lynne E. Graybeal and William Cheever Rava lead on industry cases, representing artists, authors, publishers, sports teams and musicians. Lawyers have extensive knowledge of digital media and interactive entertainment. Other areas of focus include copyright litigation, communications, marketing and technology.

Media work at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom is driven by corporate and transactional cases. Working with clients from the entertainment industry, lawyers assist with purchases, sales and proposed M&As. Representative works includes advice to 21st Century Fox in its proposed USD 80 billion acquisition of Time Warner, representation of Walt Disney in its USD 4 billion acquisition of LucasfilM and assistance to XM Satellite Radio in its USD 13 billion tax-free merger-of-equals with Sirius Satellite Radio. Thomas H. Kennedy and Stuart D. Levi are the firm’s key practitioners.

Venable’s lawyers have in-depth knowledge of the home entertainment, new media and advertising industries. The firm’s work includes assisting prominent independent feature film groups with production transactions and financing. The team represented independent film producers in a USD 5 million fraud and breach of contract suit brought by foreign investors. Lawyers also acted for a leading advertising agency in a USD 40 million indemnity action against its former client.


Arent Fox acts for diverse entertainment clients on transactional, regulatory and royalty rate-setting matters across all segments of the media industry. The practice is particularly known for its work with clients form the digital media, television, motion pictures and music sectors. Lawyers work from multiple locations including Washington, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Cravath, Swaine & Moore is known for its work with leading broadcasters and entertainment companies including Time Warner, Walt Disney and A&E Television. The team handles complex transactional matters and litigation. Lawyers are noted for their experience in intellectual property disputes and governmental regulatory investigations. Managing partner Robert H. Baron works closely with Sandra C. Goldstein and Richard J. Stark who specialise in defamation and corporate governance.

Well regarded by its competitors, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips is highlighted for its increased market visibility. The firm’s core service areas include advertising, marketing, entertainment and digital media. Under the leadership of Linda A. Goldstein the media team also assists clients with online gaming, branded entertainment and mobile marketing.

Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp’s primary focus is on entertainment. Lawyers assist with transactions involving the development, financing, production and distribution of motion picture and interactive projects. In notable work the team negotiated the financing arrangement for a more than 20 high budget films with an estimated value of USD1.5 billion. Lawyers also have extensive experience advising on joint ventures, publishing and licensing agreements, advertising and copyright.   

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius represents traditional and emerging media companies on regulatory and transactional issues notably involving radio and television. Washington partners Andrew D. Lipman and Catherine Wang manage the TMT practice, which also focusses on media ownership, competition and copyright issues.  

Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler has significant litigation experience. Lawyers act in complex commercial and antitrust cases across a range of media segments. The entertainment and sports practice is also active in cases involving corporate, financial and intellectual property matters. Saul B. Shapiro, Robert P. LoBue and John P. Schmitt are the firm’s key industry contacts with experience representing music companies, cable operators sports teams and associations.   


Arnall Golden Gregorys dedicated practice group specialises in the defence of libel, defamation and invasion of privacy. Based in Washington and Atlanta respectively, Ross A. Buntrock and Robert L. Rothman focus on disputes, commercial litigation and regulatory advice.


Foley & Lardner’s work covers sports, advertising, and copyright with broader emphasis on technology. The practice focusses on sports franchise investments, acquisitions, financing and commercial transactions. In representative work, lawyers acted for Guggenheim Baseball Management, the ownership group of the Los Angeles Dodgers, in its new television rights deal to launch SportsNet LA, a regional sports network for the franchise.

The media law practice group at Steptoe & Johnson routinely works with communications industry clients on matters ranging from copyright to complex commercial disputes. Core service areas include digital media, entertainment and e-commerce. The team advises on cases of defamation, commercial speech and corporate expression. In notable work lawyers assisted a production company on television co-production agreements with Chinese production companies for the broadcasting and distribution of television shows in China. Michael J. Allan and Shannen W. Coffin are the firm’s primary contact for media law, working from New York and Washington respectively.


Kelley Drye & Warren has a respected practice committed to media and entertainment litigation, representing defendants and plaintiffs. In highlighted work the team successfully defended two television studios against a claim by two talent agencies for an increased percentage of the revenue generated by the off-network distribution of a television series. Led by Los Angeles-based Lee S. Brenner, the team also aced for a Los Angeles television station against defamation and invasion of privacy claims.

The media group at Robins Kaplan works across a range of sectors. The team handles cases on behalf of advertising agencies, actors, musicians and athletes. Lawyers advise on independent motion picture and television production and distribution. Practice leader Mark Passin advises on high-profile disputes between recording artists and record companies, on royalty audits and motion picture profit participations.

Music specialist Ziffren Brittenham has extensive experience representing clients from the music industry. The firm has acted for more than 30 members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has negotiated multiple global rights deals. Lawyers advise numerous independent music labels and assist independent family entertainment and video game companies. Founding partner Skip Brittenham handles transactional cases and has supervised numerous successful public offerings of media companies.

Ranking and editorials


Ballard Spahr


Davis & Gilbert

Davis Wright Tremaine

Hogan Lovells

Latham & Watkins

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton


Cahill Gordon & Reindel

Debevoise & Plimpton


Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz

Jenner & Block  

Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel

Loeb & Loeb

Paul Hastings

Perkins Coie

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom


Wiley Rein  


Arent Fox

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer  

Baker McKenzie

Covington & Burling

Cravath, Swaine & Moore

Gibson Dunn

DLA Piper

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy

Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius

Olshan Frome Wolosky

Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler

Proskauer Rose

Sidley Austin


Arnall Golden Gregory

Baker Botts

Foley & Lardner

Kirkland & Ellis

Ladas & Parry

Mayer Brown

Morrison & Foerster

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

Pryor Cashman

Reed Smith

Steptoe & Johnson

Weil, Gotshal & Manges


Winston & Strawn



Clarick Gueron Reisbaum


Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis

Hughes Hubbard & Reed

Irell & Manella

Kelley Drye & Warren

Kellogg Hansen Todd Figel & Frederick

Knobbe Martens

Robins Kaplan

Ropes & Gray   

Squire Patton Boggs

Ziffren Brittenham


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