The most important news story of the week in the area of media and information law was the release of the Government’s 299 page draft Investigatory Powers Bill [pdf] and 222 pages of accompanying documents.
. As Privacy International pointed out in a press statement,
“After years of downplaying, obscuring, and denying the Snowden revelations, the Government has finally entered the conversation. For the first time Parliament and the British public will be able to debate mass surveillance powers like bulk interception, bulk hacking, and the data-mining of bulk personal datasets”
The ObiterJ blog had a post summarising some the early reactions to the Bill from a variety of commentators
The initial reaction of the Open Rights Group was that the draft bill was a missed opportunity to rein in the surveillance state. Liberty’s analysis is that the Bill contains extensive new powers to track and hack but few privacy safeguards.
The Cyberleagle blog has a post on the draft entitled “Prediction and Verdict”, dealing with the extent to which the bill fulfilled some of its earlier predictions. Paul Bernal has a post on the neglected area of “Internet Connection Records”.
The Hawktalk bog has a post entitled “Section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984: a warning from history”. This draw attention to the extent to which the national security agencies have been collecting bulk communications data using powers being exercised in a way which has not been subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
In the Southwark Crown Court, the trial of former New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns for perjury continues. Mr Cairns gave evidence this week as did his wife and his co-defendant Andrew Fitch-Holland The trial was covered by the Cricinfo website and can be found here; Cairns warned by judge for evasion; Wife denies fixing conversation took place; Cairns’ former barrister gives evidence.
At the Old Bailey prison officer Grant Pizzey is on trial for misconduct in public office accused of leaking information from notorious inmates at HMP Belmarsh to the Daily Mirror. His wife is accused of aiding and abetting him.
At the same court on 4 November 2015 another prison officer, Amanda Watts, was jailed for 12 months for selling stories about George Michael’s time in prison to the Sun.
The BBC reports that a boy arrested in Northern Ireland over a cyber-attack on TalkTalk is suing three national newspapers for invasion of privacy after they named him and published his photograph. The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Sun all gave undertakings to protect the boy’s identity pending the outcome of the case. A judge in the High Court in Belfast granted injunctions against Google and Twitter to remove references to the boy’s name and address and information about his physical appearance.
Data Protection and Data Privacy
The ICO blog has a post by David Smith entitled “Has the search result ruling stopped the internet working?”.
The peepbeep! Blog has a post about the ICO’s guidance on when and how to remove personal data “safely” from disclosable information to avoid breaching data protection rules.
The Privacy Europe blog reports on the progress of discussions with the US on a so-called “Safe Harbour 2.0” agreement.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
On the same day there was a statement in open court [pdf] in the case of Michael Segalov v University of Sussex. As noted on the 5RB website, the University agreed to pay the claimant damages of £20,000.
Newspapers, Journalism and Regulation
On 3 November 2015 the Press Recognition Panel celebrated its first anniversary and the provisions of sections 34 to 39 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 took effect. These provide that exemplary damages may be awarded against relevant publishers in claims for libel, slander, breach of confidence, misuse of private information, malicious falsehood and harassment. Roy Greenslade had a post about this.
The Media Reform Coalition has argued that the Trinity Mirror deal for the takeover of Local World is a serious threat to media plurality.
The Press Gang blog has published Part 5 of its series on Piers Morgan, entitled “A Slicker Full of Lies”.
Byline published an article by Greg Miskiw entitled “Miskiw on Coulson and Wallis at News of World: Bribes and Bollocking and Bogus Stories”.
Last week in the Courts
On 4 November 2015, the Grand Chamber of the Court of Human Rights heard the case of Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v Hungary (18030/11). The applicant, a human rights NGO, asked police forces to disclose information about ‘public defenders’. The police forces refused, and the Hungarian court refused to order disclosure. The applicant complains that the refusal interferes with its rights under Article 10. This directly raises the vexed question as to whether Article 10 includes a right to freedom of information. There is a report about the hearing on the Panopticon Blog. The statement of facts can be found here and there is a webcast of the hearing which can be viewed here.
On 5 November 2015, Sir Michael Tugendhat heard an application in the case of ZAM v TFW. Judgment was reserved.
On 5 and 6 November 2015 Sir Michael Tugendhat heard an application in the case of Ahuja v Politika Novine I Magazini Drustvo za Izdavanje Novina i Magazina d.o.o. Beograd (Sari Grad) & ors. As noted on the Doughty Street website this is the first occasion on which a court has had to consider the effect of section 9 of the Defamation Act 2013. Judgment was reserved.
On 6 November 2015, Sir David Eady heard applications in the case of Otuo v Morley.
Please let us know if there are any events you would like to be included on this list by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Accountants Daily has a report on the case of McEloney v Massey in which a defamation claim by an accountant in the Western Australia District Court was dismissed.
A defamation trial is taking place in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. A former MP, Blair Wilson, is suing a newspaper and various individuals for publishing or distributing damaging allegations that Wilson was financially irresponsible, guilty of Elections Act violations and unfit for public office.
The Canadian Privacy Blog has published a presentation on the subject of privacy and drones under Canadian law. It also has a post entitled “Let’s avoid technopanic in the call for additional privacy regulation for drones” (the author, David T S Fraser, confesses to being an “avid drone user”
The Independent reports that a defamation claim against the singer Johnny Hallyday by his ex-wife Adeline Blondieau has failed. The Court rule that accusations that surface during “contentious and highly publicised” divorce proceedings don’t damage reputations, since both parties “use the press to keep their reputation intact by having a dig at the other, without the public being able to know the true from the false”.
RTE reports that a defamation claim brought by a former member of the Church of Scientology against a leading member has been adjourned until January 2016.
The Presidential Press Secretary has sued the Times Group for defamation over a claim that he told them the President may contemplate buying jet once the economy improves.
The Panopticon blog reports on the argument in the US Supreme Court case of Spokeo Inc v Thomas Robins, a case which concerns the issue as to whether there should be compensation for “digital injury” where there is no financial loss.
Research and Resources
- Reputation and Defamatory Meaning on the Internet: Communications, Contexts and Communities, Singapore Academy of Law Journal, 2015, Forthcoming, Singapore Management University School of Law Research Paper No. 50/2015, Gary K. Y. Chan.
- Confronting Totalitarianism at Home: The Roots of European Privacy Protections, Brooklyn Journal of International Law, Vol. 40, No. 3, 2015, Hannah Bloch-Wehba, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
- Regulating the Internet. Prescriptive and Jurisdictional Boundaries to the EU’s ‘Right to Be Forgotten’, Geert van Calster. K.U. Leuven
- Indirect Incitement and Freedom of Speech in Anglo-American Law, 2006(3) European Human Rights Law Review 258, David G. Barnum
Next week in the courts
On 11 November 2015, Sir Michael Tugendhat will hand down judgment in the appeals of Bates v Weston; and Leeds United Football v Weston.
We are not aware of any other relevant hearings this week. Please let us know whether there is anything we have missed.
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:
Rahman v ARY Network Ltd, heard 1, 2 and 6 July 2015 (Haddon-Cave J).
Yeo v Times Newspapers. heard 12-16 and 19-20 October 2015 (Warby J)
Gulati v MGN, heard 20 and 21 October 2015 (Arden, Rafferty and Kitchin LJJ)
Weller v Associated Newspapers, heard 27 and 28 October 2015 (The Master of the Rolls, Tomlinson and Bean LJJ)
ZAM v TFW, heard 5 November 2015 (Sir Michael Tugendhat).
Ahuja v Politika. Heard 5 and 6 November 2015 (Sir Michael Tugendhat).