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Specialist Guide to the
Global Leaders in Media Law Practice
The past year has been unprecedented, with resources being moved to crucial areas of business to ensure operational continuity.
Lawyers say that data privacy and fake news, as well as their prevalence in all areas of media, have been the main subject of conversation. These issues pose serious reputational and security risk to businesses.
Anouska Fabes, Senior Associate at Ashurst commented: “The year 2020, so far, has been dominated by certain media themes. Covid itself involved huge discussion regarding data privacy, related to, for example, the 'Coronavirus tracker app', the Government's track and track scheme and the requirement to provide identifiable personal data at the entrance to restaurants.”
Ms Fabes added: “In short, a number of new legislations have come in at short notice, quickly drafted and at times difficult to interpret. However, whilst the GDPR and DPA 2018 are now relied on increasing for defamation and other media claims, the legislation and regulation of original causes of action such as defamation and privacy need, as regards the former, amending and, as regards the latter, producing.”
Thee question of anonymity and reporting restrictions in media cases has shown a growing need for further change to press regulation regarding online publication.
Other areas of importance over the past year include copyright infringement. Ms Fabes explained: “The counterfeit situation grows, and 2020 has been the year where, finally, questions are being asked as to how we tackle this different sort of global pandemic.”
Speaking about artificial intelligence and broader technology trends, Ms Fabes noted: “The issue of AI and tech assistance in media matters has been important this year and will continue to be so. With the pandemic, costs are tighter- so businesses need quicker, better solutions.”
The UK’s Daily Mail became the nation’s most-read paper, making history as Britain’s best-selling newspaper, surpassing The Sun for the first time in its 124-year history. The Daily Mail reported sales of 980,000 per day in May.
In legal market changes, Deloitte Legal bought London media law firm Kemp Little. Deloitte Legal announced plans to acquire the media law boutique firm as part of significant expansion plans. The agreement, which was announced in November, adds 29 partners and 57 lawyers to Deloitte’s UK legal division.
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.” Ben Allgrove and Steve Holmes are joint leaders of the firm’s broadcasting and communications division and act for a spectrum of entertainment and television clients.
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. Led by Phil Sherrell 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.
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 partners we mostly use are John Enser and Victoria Gaskell. We rate them very highly - both are experts in media law and are real assets on complex media transactions,” noted one client. 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.
DLA Piper is among global leaders in the area of media law. Joint practice leaders Nick Fitzpatrick and Chris Hanson represent 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. One client note: “DLA Piper has handled some acquisition work and we have found their UK office to be particularly good at cost management.”
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 lawyer such as Tony Ballard. Other key practitioners include Neil Adleman and Peter Armstrong.
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.
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. Michael Brader co-manages the media corporate group.
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”. Nigel Tait, who manages the media law department, has obtained numerous injunctions for clients restraining privacy infringement. Other key practitioners include Alasdair Pepper who has considerable experience advising on in pre-publication.
Mark Bailey heads the sport, retail and technology division within Charles Russell Speechley. 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.
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 intellectual property, data protection, sector-related tax and regulation.
Tim Johnson manages the technology, media and communications division at Fieldfisher, which covers a multitude of segments. The team regularly advises on media, corporate finance, media tax, sports, advertising and satellite projects. 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.
expanded its practice with the hire of Andrew Stephenson who joined from Carter-Ruck and brings exceptional expertise in the area of defamation. The firm’s media division is managed by Christopher Hutchings who specialises in all areas of music litigation. Lawyers advise on film, television, digital media and handle complex litigation.
Howard Kennedy has an unwavering reputation for its industry specialisation. The firm’s media and entertainment practice is under the management of astute practitioner Mark Stephens 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.
International peers highlight Lewis Silkin for its extensive involved in industry-specific cases. UK-based competitors single out David Deakin for his 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.
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.
Defamation, data protection and copyright disputes are among Blake Morgan’s focus areas.
and licensing. Lawyers also handle libel and privacy litigation on behalf of commercial organisations and private individuals.
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. Founding partners Richard Bray and Mark Krais have broad experience acting for artists, management agents, recording studios, publishers and sports sector clients.
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.
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 founding partner Jamie Singer led the team in its advise 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 Keith Mathieson manages the practice which is appointed by clients such as Mirror Group, Telegraph Media Group and Financial Times.
Tom Lingard led the team advising 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.”
Bindmans focusses on media and information law and has long-standing expertise in this area. The firm’s work, led by Tamsin Allen, 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 two journalists.
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.
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 AUD 2 billion takeover by Foxtel.
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.
Managed by the 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, which includes key practitioner Eddie Powell, also advises on all aspects of online presence, including content production and acquisition.
Latham & Watkins handles acquisitions, investments and joint ventures. The firm is also appointed by sports teams and leagues. Head of division Joseph A. Calabrese advises 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.
Bird & Bird
CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang
Lee & Thompson
Charles Russell Speechlys
Bray & Krais
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
Farrer & Co
Mishcon de Reya
Reynolds Porter Chamberlain
Simons Muirhead & Burton
Bates Wells Braithwaite
Herbert Smith Freehills
Simmons & Simmons
Trainer Shepherd Philips Melin Haynes & Collins Long
ACK Media Law
Allen & Overy
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer
Clyde & Co
Latham & Watkins
RANKING AND EDITORIALS