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IRELAND

The year 2021 has seen a number of significant developments in Irish media law.


Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill (OSMR)

The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill is currently at pre-legislative stage in the National Parliament. Once enacted it will provide systemic regulation of online platforms and address harmful online content.


The OSMR will establish a Media Commission, tasked specifically with regulating online service activities, through binding online safety codes, to tackle the availability of harmful online content. Further, the OSMR will appoint an Online Safety Commissioner to oversee this new regulatory framework. The OSMR will possess tough sanction powers for non-compliance.


The OSMR will also transpose the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive into domestic law, placing the regulation of on-demand video services on a direct statutory footing alongside television broadcasting services.


Reform of the Defamation Act 2009 (2009 Act)

Irish defamation law is often referred to as one of the most restrictive in Europe. The European Commission has previously expressed concern that Irish defamation cases are too frequent and expensive to defend.


In 2021, the Irish government initiated its Justice Plan, which included a complete statutory review of the 2009 Act. The intention is to achieve a more balanced approach between freedom of expression, safeguarding reputation and access to justice.


A key reform being considered is the removal of juries from defamation trials based on evidence that juries tend to award disproportionately high


damages, inflating the settlement value of cases generally. Excessive damages awards can result in appeals, protracted litigation and increased legal costs for all parties involved.


Norwich Pharmacal Orders (NPO)

NPOs are becoming more prevalent in Ireland which is, in part, due to the fact that a number of the large social media platforms have established their European hubs in Dublin.


However, such relief is often difficult to obtain. Irish courts require a plaintiff to (i) provide strong prima facie evidence of wrongdoing, (ii) evidence of the respondent’s sufficient involvement in the wrongdoing, (iii) show that disclosure of information from a third party is required to enable action against the respondent and, (iv) establish that an NPO is in the interests of justice.


In contrast, the English courts sometimes

adopt a more flexible approach, accepting that proof of wrongdoing is not always a pre-condition to such relief.


Given the imminent publication of the OSMR and the potential reforms to the legislation governing Irish defamation claims, it appears likely there will be significant changes to the Irish media law landscape in 2022.


Written by

Mark O'Shaughnessy

Partner 

ByrneWallace LLP

TIER 1

A&L Goodbody’s media team operates under the management of the firm’s IP and technology division. Areas of specialisation include broadcast, entertainment, publishing and online media. Lawyers advise on regulation, content licensing and copyright disputes.


McCann FitzGeralds internal collaborative approach creates broad sector and service focus. The firm has a long-standing specialisation in media defence, commercial litigation, privacy and internet liability. The team works on numerous defamation actions on behalf of a range of clients, UK- and US-based. Over the past year, the firm has advised on contractual disputes and regulatory challenges, and has worked with clients including Buzzfeed, ITN and Twitter.


Ronan Daly Jermyn’s areas of expertise include defamation, privacy and contempt of law. Lawyers acts for print, broadcast and digital media clients on media mergers, advertising, copyright and regulation.

The firm advises print, online and radio entities within the Landmark Media Group and several regional newspaper titles.


Primarily a defence practice, Simon McAleese is among the country’s leading libel specialists. The media team acts for newspapers, magazine and book publishers, radio stations and independent television production companies. The firm is also known for its work in the area of data protection, copyright and reputation management.  


William Fry has a “strong reputation in the area of defamation”. Clients highlight the firm as one of Ireland’s leading media law practices. The team is described by clients as “thoughtful, responsive and provides pragmatic advice”. The firm advises on a range of issues including entertainment, social media and data protection. The firm acts for clients including UTV, BBC, Daily Mail Group and Sky.


TIER 2

Johnsons is gaining recognition among peers, who highlight the firm for its increased visibility in media cases. The team achieved record damages for plaintiff clients while representing national newspapers and publishers. The firm also works with clients from the music, sports and entertainment industries.


With a dedicated sports law division, Mason Hayes & Curran lawyers regularly advise broadcasters, sponsors, sports-governing bodies, investors and athletes. Related focus areas include reputation management, personality and image rights along with dispute resolution.  Working from a separate TMT division, media lawyers work with leading social media and search organisations on matters ranging from first round funding and strategic outsourcing partnerships to intellectual property management.


The media and entertainment division at Philip Lee specialises in film and television. Lawyers assist with feature films, animation series and television drama produced in Ireland. The team also advises on Ireland’s tax incentive for film and online distributed productions. The practice is recognised among peers for its high visibility in sector-related cases.


TIER 3

Arthur Cox has an established media practice with cross-border capability. Working from its Belfast and London offices, the firm advises on music, film, television and advertising. The media team advised Savage Productions on the financing and production of various film and television productions. The team also assisted RTÉ Networks with regulatory aspects of third party broadcasting.


The media division at Eugene F. Collins, which is known for its focus on traditional media content providers such as radio and television broadcasters. The team also provides pre-publication advice and litigates on behalf of clients in cases of defamation and privacy.


LK Shields lawyers have extensive experience advising on corporate transactions. The firm acted for Communicorp Group Limited, the largest radio operator in Ireland, in its acquisitions of foreign radio stations. In a separate case lawyers advised Alpha Newspaper Group with its acquisition of various newspapers. Other focus areas include film financing and production, music rights and defamation.


Lawyers at Matheson have in-depth experience advising on libel, contempt of court, freedom of expression and privacy laws. With a dedicated entertainment and media group, the firm is widely involved in contractual and financing arrangements for feature films and television programming. The team also advises on sector-related equity and tax-based arrangements.


TIER 4

Beauchamps Solicitors specialises in advertising, digital media and sponsorship. The team provides advice on content, online marketing, copyright protection as well as clearance advice on advertising copy. The practice is known for transactional work, sports law and product law.

 

The media division at DFMG Solicitors works within the firm’s intellectual property department, focussing on film finance, privacy and sponsorship and advertising agreements. Lawyers also advise on data protection and copyright.

TIER 1

A&L Goodbody

McCann FitzGerald LLP

Ronan Daly Jermyn

Simon McAleese  

William Fry


TIER 2

Dillon Eustace

Gateley Tweed 

Hayes Solicitors

Johnsons

Mason Hayes & Curran

Philip Lee


TIER 3

Arthur Cox

ByrneWallace LLP

Eugene F. Collins

LK Shields

Meagher Solicitors

Matheson


TIER 4

Beauchamps  

DFMG Solicitors

Eversheds Sutherland

Flynn O'Driscoll  

Gleeson McGrath Baldwin


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