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Specialist Guide to the
Global Leaders in Media Law Practice
The UK has had broad-ranging developments over the past year, from legislative changes and defamation cases, to anti-SLAPP measures and a GBP50 million fund for a global hub for TV, film and media.
The British Government introduced its Online Safety Bill to parliament in March, following months of debate, in an unprecedented attempt to regulate the internet.
The bill gives regulators wide-ranging enforcement powers to ‘protect children, public safety and safeguard free speech’. Under the new rules, tech executives could face criminal prosecution, with a jail term of up to six months.
In a statement, UK Digital Secretary, Nadine Dorries, noted: ‘Tech firms haven’t been held to account when harm, abuse and criminal behaviour have run riot on their platforms.’
Ms Dorries added: ‘If we fail to act, we risk sacrificing the wellbeing and innocence of countless generations of children to the power of unchecked algorithms.’
In other legislative developments, the UK announced proposals to prevent the rich and powerful from using courts to silence journalists with the use of expensive lawsuits. The new measures were announced in July as part of reforms that could radically reduce ways in which dictators and corrupt organisations threaten reporters and critics with SLAPPs.
The changes would mean that courts in England and Wales are granted new powers to dismiss lawsuits brought by wealthy claimants to
“stifle free speech”.
In a statement, the Ministry of Justice explained that SLAPPs are a ‘growing threat to freedom of speech and a free press’.
Lawyers say work over the past year has included copyright cases as well as defamation enquiries from individual and corporations.
Jill Bainbridge, Blake Morgan, said: “We have seen the most activity from academic publisher clients with queries around ownership of copyright and publishing ethics questions. In addition we have seen a lot of defamation queries from corporates in relation to social media activity by customers and former employees.”
Ms Bainbridge added: “There have been some interesting judgments this year to include the Duchess of Sussex case and the Vardy/Rooney case. We continue to see a lot of online defamation and harassment issues and lots of publishing ethics queries.”
In other developments, Wales has launched a GBP50 million collaboration to develop a global hub for TV, film and media as part of measures to develop a world-leading location for innovation.
The five-year collaboration project, Media Cymru, was launched in October. It provides funding and training opportunities for businesses and individuals alike.
Over the next five years, the collaboration will work to strengthen media activity, as well as to develop sector start-ups.
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. 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.
The sports, retail and technology division at Charles Russell Speechlys is highly regarded by peers for its work on complex international cases. The firm’s focus is on advertising, marketing, gaming and social media. Over the past year, the firm has expanded its games practice into the sports segment, and has advised a number of leading production houses in the MENA region, including Image Nation (the Abu Dhabi Government), VIP Films and Joy Films. Lawyers also assist independent broadcasters in the UK, including ITV, Channel 4, Five and Sky.
CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang is highlighted as a “film production specialist” by competitors. The firm has a reputation for achieving excellence in a range of cases and receives a multitude of client praise. 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.
Harbottle & Lewis 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 lawyers.
Howard Kennedy has an unwavering reputation for its industry specialisation. The firm’s media and entertainment practice is under the management of astute practitioners 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.
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.
International peers highlight Lewis Silkin for its extensive involved in industry-specific cases. UK-based competitors single out the firm for its 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.
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.
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.” The firm’s broadcasting and communications division and act for a spectrum of entertainment and television clients.
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. Lawyers have a broad experience acting for artists, management agents, recording studios, publishers and sports sector clients.
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”. The firm has obtained numerous injunctions for clients restraining privacy infringement. Lawyers are noted by clients for their considerable experience advising on in pre-publication.
DLA Piper is among global leaders in the area of media law. The firm represents 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. Commenting of its engagement with the firm, one client said: “DLA Piper has handled some acquisition work and we have found their UK office to be particularly good at cost management.”
The technology, media and communications division at Fieldfisher covers a multitude of segments. The team regularly advises on media, corporate finance, media tax, sports and advertising. 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.
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.
Bindmans focusses on media and information law and has long-standing expertise in this area. The firm’s work 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 journalists.
Defamation, data protection and copyright disputes are among Blake Morgan’s focus areas. The practice specialises in IP and IT disputes. Acting for an international magazine publisher, the team advises on multiples IP and contract issues including app development, digital content and licensing. Lawyers also handle libel and privacy litigation on behalf of commercial organisations and private individuals.
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 IP, data protection, sector-related tax and regulation.
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.
Hamlins expanded its practice and brings together lawyers with exceptional expertise in the area of defamation. The firm’s media division specialises in all areas of music litigation. Lawyers advise on film, television, digital media and handle complex litigation.
Latham & Watkins handles acquisitions, investments and joint ventures. The firm is also appointed by sports teams and leagues. Lawyers advise 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.
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, the team advised 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, the practice which is appointed by clients such as Mirror Group, Telegraph Media Group and Financial Times.
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.
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.
Stevens & Bolton advises on contentious matters that include copyright infringement, defamation and contractual disputes. In representative work, the team advised 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.”
Thr 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 also advises on all aspects of online presence, including content production and acquisition.
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 AUD2 billion takeover by Foxtel.
Bird & Bird
Charles Russell Speechlys
CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang
Harbottle & Lewis
Lee & Thompson
Simons Muirhead & Burton
Bray & Krais
Farrer & Co
Latham & Watkins
Mishcon de Reya
Reynolds Porter Chamberlain
ACK Media Law
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
Simmons & Simmons
Stevens & Bolton
Allen & Overy
Arnold & Porter
Herbert Smith Freehills
RANKING AND EDITORIALS
REGIONS WE COVER
Middle East and North Africa
Central and Eastern Europe