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In 2022, developments in Australian media law have focussed on high-profile defamation matters and the liability of digital platforms. The High Court provided further insight into the scope of liability of digital platforms for publications on their platforms.

In Google LLC v Defteros [2022] HCA 27, the High Court determined that Google was not a publisher of articles that appeared in search results, as the search engine did not “lend assistance” to the newspaper simply by hyperlinking to the article containing the allegedly defamatory imputations.

However, search engines remained under scrutiny as Google was required to pay substantial compensatory and aggravated damages to former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro for failing to remove defamatory videos from YouTube, which were in breach of its own policies relating to hate speech and harassment.

Defamation litigation continued to occupy the courts. One of the largest defamation cases, brought by war veteran Ben Roberts-Smith against several journalists and newspapers, concluded after over 100 days of evidence.

The ‘serious harm’ threshold was tested by small-scale cases involving personal emails and one-star reviews, which established that serious harm must involve more than hurt to feelings.

The other major reform – the introduction of a ‘public interest’ defence – is set to be tested for the first time by the independent news organisation Crikey against Fox News CEO Lachlan Murdoch in 2023.

Digital platforms continue to be a focus of the ACCC. The News Media Bargaining Code remains in effect and over 30 commercial agreements have been struck with a variety of news businesses including collective bargaining by smaller regional newspapers. The Digital Platforms Service Inquiry released key findings and called for stronger consumer protections against social media scams, harmful apps and fake reviews.

The Online Safety Act 2021 strengthened the eSafety Commissioner’s ability to regulate and restrict cyberbullying against children as well as adults and to require internet service providers to block access to violent material. It also sets out basic online safety expectations. This represented the most significant change to online safety laws in Australia in the past five years.

In 2023, legislation is set to expand the powers of Australia’s media industry regulator, the ACMA, to tackle disinformation and misinformation on digital platforms. This reform will bolster requirements of the current voluntary code of practice, which has been adopted by eight signatories including Facebook, Microsoft and TikTok.  

Written by

Rebecca Dunn

Partner, Media & IP

Gilbert + Tobin


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. The firm works on matters relating to defamation, pre-broadcast contempt, intellectual property and information technology.

Gilbert + Tobin 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.

MinterEllison 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. The firm 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. 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.

With a broadcasting specialisation, Corrs Chambers Westgarth has leading expertise in communications, media, entertainment and technology. The firm’s past work on corporate transactional cases includes Southern Cross Media’s takeover of Austereo Group Limited in a AUD724 million deal. Lawyers have notable experience advising on broadcasting, spectrum licensing and commercial radio.

Webb Henderson specialises in high value corporate, commercial and regulatory matters. The ffirm 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.


Allens is recognised for its work in mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures in the media and technology sectors. The teams 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.   

Atanaskovic Hartnell’s corporate and commercial department is focussed on transactional,

regulatory and disputes within the TMT sector. 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. The team advises on IT outsourcing, copyright and other intellectual property issues and commercial litigation.

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 with experience working on disputes about ownership and control, access to networks, regulation and competition, content rights and agreements. Clients include BskyB, Microsoft and Telstra.

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.

McCullough Robertson lawyers have more than two decades of experience assisting broadcasters with cases of defamation and contempt. Team experience includes advising on music, film production, television licensing and production contracts and publishing agreements.


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. The firm specialises 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


Baker McKenzie

Gilbert + Tobin





Banki Haddock Fiora

Bird & Bird

Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Webb Henderson

Johnson Winter & Slattery



Atanaskovic Hartnell

Clayton Utz

Herbert Smith Freehills

King & Wood Mallesons

McCullough Robertson




Macpherson Kelley


Mark O’Brien Legal

Simpsons Solicitors

Thomson Geer


DLA Piper

HWL Ebsworth


Norton Rose Fulbright

Piper Alderman




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