This is the last full week of the Michaelmas legal term which ends on Monday 21 December 2020. The next legal term, the 2021 Hilary term will begin on 11 January 2021 and our next Law and Media Round up will be published on that day.
On 7 December 2020, actor Johnny Depp applied for permission to appeal against the decision of Nicol J dismissing his claim for libel against News Group Newspapers (see our case report). There was a report on the application for permission to appeal in the Guardian. A decision on the application for permission is not likely to be made until early 2021.
Prince Harry has commenced libel proceedings against the Mail on Sunday over an article claiming that he has lost touch with the Royal Marines. There is a report in the Independent.
On 14 December 2020 there will be a directions hearing in the Mirror Group phone hacking litigation, Various Claimants v MGN Ltd before the managing Judge, Mann J. His replacement as managing judge will Fancourt J who will take over management of the Mirror Group and News Group phone hacking claims in the New Year.
Two settlements of libel cases were announced this week. On 10 December 2020 a unilateral Statement in Open Court was read before Nicklin J, after Sir James and Lady Deirdre Dyson accepted an offer of amends in relation to false and defamatory claims made by the Daily Mail in an article published in 2019 as it reported on a legal dispute between the Dysons and their former housekeeper. Inforrm, Schillings Insights and 5RB had posts. The Press Gazette also had a piece.
The Times has agreed to pay libel damages to barrister Barbara Hewson over death threat allegations. There was a post about the case on the Brett Wilson website. The trial was due to commence on Monday 7 December 2020 but settled shortly before. 5RB and The Law Society Gazette had a piece.
The Jewish Chronicle reports that Ben Jolly Twitter account has issued an apology to the barrister Jeffrey Samuels QC after he received a legal letter warning him he would be sued for libel for a post on the platform which falsely claimed the lawyer’s opposition to Jeremy Corbyn was motivated by a wish to save tax.
The Transparency Project Blog has its regular “Family Court Reporting Watch Round Up“.
Press freedom organisations have condemned the legal action filed at the London High Court against the Swedish business and finance publication, Realtid, in connection with their investigation on the financing of energy projects involving a Swedish businessman. Reporters Without Borders, Index on Censorship, Article 19, Media Defence and European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) are concerned about the use of litigation tactics to intimidate journalists into silence. The European Centre for Press & Media Freedom had a piece.
Foreign policy website Declassified accused the MoD of blacklisting them after its reporter Phil Miller was told “we no longer deal with your publication” when he asked for comment about a British soldier being investigated for protesting the war in Yemen in August. Miller noticed the Telegraph had been sent a comment about the same story, and in fact the BBC and Daily Mirror also received lines and background briefings. After Declassified went public with its allegations, an independent review commissioned by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, has revealed failings within the press office but no formal “blacklisting” policy. The Press Gazette had a piece.
Internet and Social Media
YouTube users will be able to opt out of most gambling and alcohol adverts if they don’t want to see them, using tools set to be rolled out by Google in the UK next year. The Guardian had a piece.
Twitter has acquired Squad, an app that lets users hang out with friends via video chat and screen-sharing, the company announced. Squad will help Twitter “bring new ways for people to interact, express themselves, and join in the public conversation,” Twitter’s VP of product, Ilya Brown, said in a tweet. The Verge had a piece.
Data Privacy and Data Protection
London company Pension House Exchange (PHE) has been fined £45,000 for making more than 39,000 nuisance calls to people about their pensions. After raiding PHE’s offices as part of an investigation, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found that PHE staff connected with people on LinkedIn and harvested their contact details to target them with direct marketing calls relating to pensions schemes. The ICO had a news.
The ICO had a statement “ICO and Global Cyber Alliance sign Memorandum of Understanding”.
The ICO had a statement “Competition and Markets Authority advises government on new regulatory regime for tech giants”.
The Panopticon blog had a piece “The Gerrard litigation: the death-knell for litigation surveillance?”
Hodge Jones & Allen had a post “How does GDPR Affect video surveillance(CCTV)?”.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
IPSO a post that following the Editors ‘Code Committee consultation, they have announced that Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Code would be updated to include specific reference to mental health. There was a post on the IPSO’s website.
IPSO had a press release “Comment on Level Up’s “Dignity for dead women” report”.
In response to IPSO’s announcement that they are committed to working closely with groups and individuals with expertise on domestic violence reporting, Hacked Off had a post “A snapshot into fatal domestic abuse reporting: how IPSO has failed, and why code change is the first step to improving reporting” and a further press release “Hacked Off joins Refuge, White Ribbon, Centre for Women’s Justice and WISH in calling for action on unethical and irresponsible fatal domestic abuse reporting”.
The Press Gazette had a piece “UK editors reject pleas to outlaw discrimination against ethnic and religious groups in IPSO code review”.
IPSO has published a number of rulings and resolutions statements since our last Round Up:
- 28060-20 Sturt v Mail Online, 1 Accuracy (2019), Resolved – IPSO mediation
- 27845-20 Garrity v The Scotsman, 1 Accuracy (2019), Resolved – IPSO mediation
- 27809-20 Levick v The National, 1 Accuracy (2019), Resolved – IPSO mediation
- 15320-20 Cook v Daily Express, 1 Accuracy (2019), 12 Discrimination (2019), No breach – after investigation
- 12005-20 Oliver v The National, 1 Accuracy (2019), No breach – after investigation
- 00236-20 Sharp v Take a Break, 1 Accuracy (2019), 9 Reporting of crime (2019), 12 Discrimination (2019), Breach – sanction: action as offered by publication
- 07965-19 Rainey and Ewart v Sunday World, 1 Accuracy (2019), Resolved – IPSO mediation
- 07965-19 Rainey and Ewart v Sunday World, 1 Accuracy (2019), Resolved – IPSO mediation
Last Week in the Courts
As already mentioned, the trial in the case of Hewson v Times Newspapers which was due to commence on 7 December 2020 was settled.
On 11 December 2020 Collins-Rice J heard an application to strike out the defence in the case of Riley v Sivier. Judgment was reserved. There was a comment on the hearing by the defendant on his blog, Vox Political.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
On 9 December 2020 Gibson DCJ handed down judgment in the case of Geyer v Ghosn  NSWDC 744. Damages of $125,000 were awarded in respect of a false allegation that the plaintiff was involved in a sex scandal and appeared in a sex video. There was a report on Mail Online.
A former Brisbane City councillor, Kate Richards has lodged a defamation lawsuit against members of Queensland’s Liberal National Party state executive, seeking at least $1 million dollars in special damages. Kate Richards was dumped as an LNP candidate for the Pullenvale Ward and referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) by party leaders in December before being cleared by the watchdog three months later. In a defamation claim filed in the Supreme Court, lawyers for Ms Richards claim a media statement released by the LNP on December 10, 2019 defamed Ms Richards by suggesting she had committed “corrupt” and “criminal” conduct while a councillor. ABC had a piece.
The Sydney Morning Herald had a piece “Cretin jibe in Financial Review column ‘cruel’, judge says in defamation case”.
The same newspaper reports that high-profile Sydney criminal lawyer Chris Murphy may be required to submit to a medical examination as he sues The Daily Telegraph for defamation over a column he alleges portrays him as “so ravaged by age” he is unfit to practise.
On 8 December 2020 the High Court of Australia granted the defendants’ permission to appeal in the case of Voller v Fairfax Media Publications and Ors  NSWCA 102. There was a report on this decision in the Sydney Morning Herald.
A defamation case brought by France’s football team manager Didier Deschamps against his former teammate Eric Cantona has been declared void. Deschamps sued Cantona over comments he made ahead of Euro 2016. He appeared to suggest Deschamps left out two players from the French squad because of their African origin. The court in Paris ruled that the complaint had not clearly defined the case for defamation. Deschamps has 10 days to appeal. The BBC had a piece.
The Times of Israel reports that former soccer star Eyal Berkovic was cleared of wrongdoing in a defamation lawsuit that was launched after he called Arab Knesset members “spies” and “Trojan horses.”
Thailand’s pro-democracy groups have been holding gatherings to press for the abolition of a law that penalises insulting and criticizing the nation’s top royals, after authorities invoked the act against protest leaders who are demanding monarchy reform. Bloomberg had a piece.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and nearly every U.S. state filed lawsuits against Facebook accusing the social network of abusing its “dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals, snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users” and to use a “buy or bury” scheme to quash competition. If the lawsuit achieves the FTC’s goal Facebook Inc could be forced to sell its prized assets WhatsApp and Instagram. There was a piece on Reuters and the Guardian.
Law.com had a piece “Charles Harder and Trump Campaign Face Uphill Fight in Washington Post Defamation Hearing”.
Vanity Fair reports on Johnny Depp’s continuing libel against Amber Heard in Virginia.
Research and Resources
- The Erosion of Common Law Privacy and Defamation: Reconsidering the Law’s Balancing of Speech, Privacy, and Reputation, Wayne Law Review, Vol. 65, No. 2, 2020, p. 279-324, Patrick M. Garry, University of South Dakota – School of Law.
- Social Media Privacy in Canada 2020, Gruzd & Mai. (2020). Social Media Privacy in Canada2020. Version: 1.0. Ryerson University Social Media Lab. DOI:https://doi.org/10.5683/SP2/PUWDYC, Anatoliy Gruzd, Ryerson University, Philip Mai, Ryerson University.
- Applying a Contextual Integrity Framework to Privacy Policies for Smart Technologies, Gwen Shaffer, California State University Long Beach.
- Ownership of User-Held Data: Why Property Law Is the Right Approach, Christopher Donewald, affiliation not provided to SSRN, Mark Fenwick, Kyushu University – Graduate School of Law, Paulius Jurcys, Vilnius University; Prifina, Andrius Smaliukas.
- Tracing Digital Contact Tracing: Surveillance Technology and Privacy Rights During COVID-19 in China, South Korea, and the United States, Yue Yang, University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication, Students, Jeeyun Sophia Baik, University of Southern California – Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, So Yun Ahn, University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication, Students, Eugene Jang, University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication, Students.
- A Digital Identity Stack to Improve Privacy in the IoT, S. Wilson, N. Moustafa and E. Sitnikova, “A digital identity stack to improve privacy in the IoT,” 2018 IEEE 4th World Forum on Internet of Things (WF-IoT), Singapore, 2018, pp. 25-29, doi: 10.1109/WF-IoT.2018.8355199., Stephen Wilson, Lockstep Consulting Pty Ltd.
- The Internet of Children: Protecting Children’s Privacy in A Hyper-Connected World. 2020 U. Ill. L. Rev. 1209 (2020) ., Eldar Haber, University of Haifa – Faculty of Law.
- Voter Privacy and Big-Data Elections, Forthcoming, Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Elizabeth F. Judge, University of Ottawa – Common Law Section, Michael Pal, University of Ottawa – Common Law Section.
Next Week in the Courts
On 14 and 15 December 2020, Jay J will hear the trial in the case of Soriano v Forensic News LLC & ors.
As already mentioned, on 14 December 2020 there will be a directions hearing in Various Claimants v MGN Ltd before Mann J.
The following reserved judgments after public hearing in media law cases are outstanding:
Onwude v Dyer, heard 6-8 October 2020 (HHJ Parkes QC)
Wright v Granath, heard 15 October 2020 (Moylan, Singh and Popplewell LJJ)
Sicri v Associated Newspapers, heard 2, 3 and 6 November 2020 (Warby J).
B.C.Strategy UK Ltd v Keshet Broadcasting Ltd & ors heard 17 November 2020 (Saini J).
Riley v Sivier, heard 11 December 2020 (Collins-Rice J).
Please let us know if there are other reserved judgments which we should be listing.
This Round Up was compiled by Nataly Tedone who is a media and entertainment paralegal.